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9 Feb 2006 : Column 1451W—continued

Iran

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his meeting of 30 January 2006 with the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and the High Representative of the EU, how long he expects the extensive period of confidence-building required of Iran to be; what assurances are being sought from Iran; and if he will make a statement. [48751]


 
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Dr. Howells: The nature of Iran's nuclear activities; its long record of concealment and failure to be fully transparent with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); its many breaches of its obligations; and its refusal to take and sustain confidence building steps requested by the IAEA Board of Governors have all contributed to a lack of confidence among the international community that Iran's nuclear programme is, as it claims, for exclusively peaceful purposes.

In August 2005, the E3/EU presented proposals covering long-term arrangements for Iran's nuclear programme. These stated that continued confidence building would be required over a significant period of time, and outlined ways in which Iran could build confidence, including by making a binding commitment not to pursue fuel cycle activities other than the construction and operation of light water power and research reactors. They suggested that a final agreement could be reviewed every 10 years.

Iran left the negotiations in August 2005 when it unilaterally decided to restart uranium conversion activities, contrary to repeated requests by the IAEA board and in violation of the Paris Agreement, which had set out the framework for talks. E3/EU officials held an exploratory meeting with Iran in December 2005 to see if it would be possible to agree a basis for resuming negotiations. The E3/EU stated that it would be essential, inter alia, for Iran not to renege further on its commitment to suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities. Iran's subsequent decision to restart enrichment related activity was a further rejection of efforts to seek a diplomatic solution, and has aroused further suspicion of Iran's intentions. We hope that Iran will reinstate a full suspension of enrichment related and reprocessing activities, address in full the outstanding requests of the IAEA Board of Governors and return to negotiations on a long-term agreement.

We welcome the resolution adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors on 4 February. At the board's request, the United Nations Security Council will now become involved, to reinforce the IAEA's authority. The decision was made necessary by Iran's failure to comply with requests made in previous board resolutions and its failure to take steps that would build confidence that its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes. The resolution was backed by the great majority of the board's 35 members, and demonstrates the strength of the international community's determination to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Iran's nuclear programme. [49416]

Dr. Howells: We welcome the resolution adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors on 4 February. The resolution was supported by the large majority of the board's 35 members, from across the regional groupings, and demonstrates the strength of the international community's determination to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
 
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At the board's request, the United Nations Security Council will now become involved, to reinforce the IAEA's authority. The board's decision was made necessary by Iran's failure to comply with requests made in previous board resolutions and its failure to take steps that would build confidence that its nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

We hope that Iran will take this opportunity to comply immediately and in full with the board's requests, including by reinstating a full suspension of all uranium enrichment related and reprocessing activities and addressing all outstanding questions about its nuclear programme.

Iraq

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 December 2005, Official Report, column 2852W, on Iraq, whether (a) the Intelligence and Security Committee in 2003 and (b) the Butler Review had access to the same intelligence material on the Government's claim that Iraq sought to procure uranium from Niger. [49257]

Mr. Straw: Both the Intelligence and Security Committee and Lord Butler's Review investigated this issue thoroughly and put their findings, and the basis on which they were made, in the public domain.

Jewish Festivals

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his Department did to (a) celebrate Hanukkah and (b) mark Yom Kippur in 2005. [46758]

Mr. Straw: It is left to individual staff members to decide how to mark religious festivals. In line with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Diversity Policy, all line managers are encouraged to be flexible when considering leave requests for staff wishing to take time off to mark religious festivals.

Kosovo

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts concerning the final status of Kosovo. [49608]

Ian Pearson: We are in regular contact with other EU partners on Kosovo. Kosovo was discussed at the General Affairs External Relations Council on 30 January following the death of President Rugova of Kosovo.

The EU was represented at the contact group plus ministerial which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary chaired on 31 January. That meeting issued a statement which I am placing in the Library of the House.
 
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Madagascar

Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect on UK (a) trade with and (b) investment in Madagascar of the closure of the British Embassy. [47937]

Ian Pearson: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is not aware of any significant change in the pattern of British trade with or investment in Madagascar since the closure of the British embassy. The former embassy had only two British diplomatic staff, neither of whom had a specific commercial role.

Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment the Government have made of the implications of Dr. A. Q. Kahn's visits to Myanmar for the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and what assessment he has made of the risk of transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology to the Myanmar regime. [49394]

Dr. Howells: We have no evidence that Dr. A. Q. Khan visited Burma, but we are aware that Dr. A. Q. Khan's weapons of mass destruction proliferation network involved a wide range of businesses in a number of countries, acting outside both national and international controls. We are not aware of any transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology to Burma.

President Paul Kagame

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to invite His Excellency President Paul Kagame to visit the UK. [49193]

Ian Pearson: There are currently no plans for an official visit to the UK by President Paul Kagame. Ministers and senior British officials meet President Kagame on a regular basis in Rwanda to discuss matters of bilateral and regional interest. His last official visit was in November 2004.

Republic of Yemen

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of (a) the security situation and (b) the democratic process in the Republic of Yemen. [49071]

Dr. Howells: We continuously monitor the security situation in Yemen, and review our assessment of it in response to developments. Our full assessment is set out in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice on the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk). During my recent visit to Yemen, I discussed security with the Yemeni Government, and emphasised the importance of determined action against security threats.

Yemen's presidential elections this year will be a test of its democratic system. We hope that it will be possible for independent monitors, including from the EU, to observe the electoral process. It is vital for the future of Yemen that the elections meet international standards.
 
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