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9 Mar 2006 : Column 1689W—continued

Middle East

Ms Barlow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to Israel on ending (a) the use of occupied territories for settlements and roads and (b) the construction of the wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. [56903]

Dr. Howells: Our Ambassador in Tel Aviv last raised our concerns about settlements and impact of the barrier in East Jerusalem with the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 19 December 2005.

Settlements are illegal under international law and settlement construction is an obstacle to peace. The Roadmap is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement construction including the natural growth" of existing settlements, and dismantle all outposts built since 2001.

We also fully recognise Israel's right to self-defence. A barrier is a reasonable way to achieve this. But the barrier's route should be on or behind the Green Line, and not on occupied territory. Construction of the barrier on Palestinian land is illegal. The route is particularly damaging around East Jerusalem, as it risks cutting the city off from the West Bank and dividing the West Bank in two.

We will continue to raise our concerns over the settlements and the barrier with the Israeli Government at all levels.

Ministerial Activities

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many
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(a) public speeches and (b) official visits he has made on departmental business since 5 May 2005; and how many letters he sent in this period. [55709]

Dr. Howells: Between 5 May 2005 and 2 March 2006, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made 28 speeches, all available at He made 32 official visits overseas incorporating 45 countries and sent 1,602 letters.

Palestinian Refugees

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is Government policy to recognise the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and land. [57439]

Dr. Howells: The return of refugees is a final status issue. Final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations and agreement between the parties themselves. We continue to urge both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to implement their commitments under the Roadmap as the best way to get to a negotiated settlement, and to the discussion of such issues.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what role he is playing in providing mediation between the National Unity Government of Sudan and representatives of the Eastern Front. [56710]

Ian Pearson: The Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front, the main rebel grouping in Eastern Sudan, were scheduled to begin negotiations in Sirte, Libya, on 7 February. On 6 February, the Eastern Front announced that they would not participate in these talks. The Eastern Front are currently holding internal discussions on their position. We are in regular contact with the Eastern Front and the Government of Sudan and are pressing them to begin negotiations at the earliest opportunity.

We continue to urge both sides to exercise restraint and to negotiate a political settlement within the framework of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and have offered our assistance in finding a suitable venue and mediator for the talks. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and my noble Friend, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, met the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Dr. Lam Akol, on 3 February and pressed Dr.Akol on the need to reach a swift agreement with the Eastern Front.

UK Citizens (Overseas Detention)

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to his Answer of 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 2244W, on UK citizens (overseas detention), what the (a) date of arrest, (b) place of detention and (c) detaining authority was of each of the three UK citizens held without charge abroad. [57283]

Dr. Howells: Since my answer of 26 January 2006, Official Report, column 2244W, in which I said that we were aware of three British nationals held without
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charge abroad for a period of 12 months or more, I regret that I have now learnt that the figure should have been four. Two British nationals are being held in Iraq. One was detained on 9 October 2004 and is held in Shaiba Divisional Temporary Detention Facility, Basra, Iraq by the UK contingent of the Multi-National Force in Iraq (MNF-I), in accordance with the authority conferred by UN Security resolution 1546 (2004) and renewed by UN Security Council resolution 1637 (2005), which authorises the MNF-I to detain individuals where it is necessary to do so for imperative reasons of security. The other was detained on 7 December 2004 by US forces under the same legal authority and is being held in Abu Ghraib following the referral of his case to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Two British nationals were detained on 25 June 2004 in Vietnam. They are being held by the Ministry of Public Security (Counter Narcotics Department) at Thanh Xuan Detaining Camp.



Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his Answer of 16 February 2006, Official Report, column 2205W, on Afghanistan, how many of the medical personnel are (a) reserves and (b) regulars. [55467]

Mr. Ingram: Of the planned 280 medical staff deploying in support of Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan, 13 of them are Reservists. This includes four from the Territorial Army and nine from the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 6 February 2006, Official Report, column 763W, on Afghanistan, what steps he is taking to prevent warlords from gaining influence or support following efforts to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan. [55468]

Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.

As stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 26 January 2006, Official Report, columns 1529–33, the UK will support the Afghan Government's objectives by pursuing activities along governance, security, economic and social development and counter-narcotics lines. We will be seeking to support the development of provincial government and law enforcement capacity, including in Helmand province where British troops will be deployed. UK activities will include capacity building for the centrally-appointed Provincial Governor, and the Afghan National Army and Afghan national police forces. This will help to support the legitimate democratic processes, and reduce the negative influence of warlords".

We are also supporting capacity building within national Afghan counter-narcotics law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies charged with targeting and bringing major traffickers and drugs lords" to justice. Since May 2005, over 90 drug traffickers have been convicted.
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Separately on eradication, we are working with the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that eradication is properly targeted against the greedy and not the needy. The Department for International Development is spending £130 million over the three financial years to 2008 to help build more sustainable legal income-generating opportunities for the rural population. We are helping the Government of Afghanistan develop and deliver an eradication information campaign, which explains the reasons behind eradication and the detrimental effects caused by those trying to undermine the Government's efforts to tackle the opium industry.

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the basis is for his Department's policy distinction between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations made in respect of deployments to Afghanistan; and when the distinction was formulated; and by whom. [56621]

Mr. Ingram: The range of activities the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) can undertake is set out in the revised Operational Plan (OPLAN) agreed in December 2005. The OPLAN makes clear that ISAF will not undertake counter-terrorist operations, which will remain the preserve of specialised Coalition assets under Operation Enduring Freedom. ISAF's role is to help the Government of Afghanistan to extend its authority across the entire country, to help them to maintain security and to facilitate reconstruction, all of which will undermine and counter the activities of insurgents and other illegally armed groups.

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