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2 May 2006 : Column 1396W—continued


Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when his Department's officials have met Iraqi Ministry of Oil officials since March 2003; and what subjects were discussed. [66770]

Dr. Howells: Officials based in our embassy in Baghdad have had regular contact with Ministry of Oil officials since 2003. Discussions cover a range of subjects relating to rehabilitation and future development of the energy sector in Iraq.
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Israel (Nuclear Threat)

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken to minimise the possible nuclear threat to Israel following recent statements from the President of Iran. [66957]

Dr. Howells: President Ahmadinejad's statements calling Israel a 'fake regime' which 'cannot logically continue to live' are outrageous and wholly unacceptable. They further heighten concerns about Iran's approach in the region, and reinforce international determination that Iran should comply with its non-proliferation obligations.

We remain fully committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. With France and Germany we have been at the forefront of efforts to encourage Iran to take steps that would create confidence that the intentions of its nuclear programme are solely peaceful. The Security Council is now involved, to reinforce the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its Board of Governors. We strongly supported the statement on 29 March by the President of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take the steps the IAEA Board has deemed essential. We will now be consulting other Security Council members on what further action the Council should take, following the IAEA Director-General's 28 April report on Iranian compliance.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the ability of opposition politicians in Moldova to operate without (a) intimidation, (b) harassment and (c) threats of legal action; and if he will make a statement. [66492]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Respect for democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law are principles which form the foundation for UK and EU co-operation with Moldova. They are also principles to which Moldova is committed through its participation in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organisations. Moldova has made some progress towards becoming a functioning democracy, with active opposition parties represented in Parliament. However, the OSCE's Office for Democracy and Institution for Human Rights identified a number of shortcomings in the conduct of the 2005 parliamentary elections, including obstruction of the opposition's campaign. Recent reports have also raised concerns about interference by the Moldovan authorities in the work of opposition political parties. Through the EU troika, we have raised our concerns about these issues, most recently with the Moldovan Foreign Minister at the EU-Moldova Co-operation Council on 6 April. We will continue to monitor Moldova's progress towards meeting its democratic commitments, including through the European Neighbourhood Policy, which offers Moldova the opportunity to achieve its ambition of closer relations with the EU, subject to progress on internal reform.
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Nigeria (Homosexuality)

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Nigeria on the progress of its bill to criminalise homosexuality. [65682]

Ian Pearson: We are concerned this Bill will cut across many of Nigeria's international human rights obligations by continuing to criminalise the homosexual community in Nigeria. We are also concerned that the Bill will criminalise non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders who may work on behalf of the homosexual community.

Together with our EU partners we plan to raise our concerns with the Nigerian authorities.


Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with US representatives on the withdrawal of funding for Palestinian development projects; and if he will make a statement. [65456]

Hilary Benn: The UK Government are in regular contact with the US on development assistance to Palestinians. On 30 March, the Quartet (the US, the EU, the UN and Russia) noted that the new Palestinian Government has not yet complied with the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel's right to exist and commitment to the peace process.

Without progress against the Quartet's conditions, the UK cannot provide direct support to the Palestinian Cabinet or its Ministries. Projects with Palestinian ministries have been suspended or re-oriented to focus on other partners. The Department for International Development is also working with other major donors including the US to establish the most effective mechanism to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people without providing funding through the Palestinian Government.

Scrutiny Reserve

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answers of 17 January 2006, Official Report, column 1290W and 7 March 2006, Official Report, column 1344W, on the scrutiny reserve, what the reason was for the different estimates for the number of scrutiny overrides in 2005. [66155]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: My reply to the hon. Member on 17 January 2006 (Official Report, column 1290W) made it clear that the figure for the number of overrides for the period July-December 2005 was a preliminary estimate. The figure of 36 was based on a preliminary list compiled by officials that had not yet been checked with the lead departments responsible for the legislation in question. That checking process revealed the lower final figure given in the follow-up reply to the hon. Member on 7 March (Official Report, column 1345W). The initial list identified two cases which should have been included in the previous report for January to June and one that had been included in error which had already been covered in the previous report. Other adjustments were needed, for example, to remove items which had in fact received clearance
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before agreement. The details of the overrides for the period July to December 2005 have now been sent to the European Scrutiny Committee. A copy of that letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

Son Jong Nam

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the North Korean Government for clemency in the case of Son Jong Nam. [66345]

Ian Pearson: The Government learned recently of the reported conviction of and death penalty imposed on Mr. Son Jong Nam. We have asked our ambassador in Pyongyang to make inquiries.


Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what powers are available to African Union troops to capture those who are believed to be involved in acts of atrocity in Sudan; and how many such people have been (a) captured, (b) brought to trial, (c) convicted and (d) imprisoned in the last 12 months. [66719]

Ian Pearson: The African Union's mandate is to monitor developments and contribute to a secure environment. It does not include powers to arrest suspected perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan.

The Government have consistently made clear that those responsible for the terrible crimes committed in Darfur should be brought to justice. We have pressed the Government of Sudan to apprehend, bring to trial and punish those involved. The UK sponsored UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1593, referring the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Prosecutor of the ICC began a formal investigation on 6 June 2005. We also co-sponsored UNSCR 1672 of 25 April, which imposed the first targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights violations in Darfur.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to members of the African Union to increase their troop levels in Sudan. [66721]

Ian Pearson: There have been no recent representations made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers to members of the African Union (AU) to increase their troop levels in Sudan. However, we support the AU's decision in principle to transfer responsibility for the international monitoring mission in Darfur to the UN. The UN force will need to be larger and better equipped than the present AU force, currently totalling some 7,000 troops. Meanwhile we continue to offer the AU support to enhance the effectiveness of its mission.

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