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The passage of Resolution 1706 demonstrates the international community’s continued commitment to peace in Darfur. In the interests of the safety and welfare of its civilians, we continue to press the Sudanese Government, at the highest level, to give consent to its implementation. We are concerting with others in the international community, including the UN, US and key Arab states, to achieve this. I raised this with Egyptian President Mubarak and the
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Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, in Cairo last week. And both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and my noble Friend the Minister for Africa (Lord Triesman of Tottenham), have been engaging key interlocutors in the Government of Sudan and beyond.

In the meantime we will continue to support the African Union’s efforts while a transition is under-way. The African Union is doing an important job in the most difficult of circumstances and it is most important that they stay until a UN force is able to deploy. On 18 July, the international community in Brussels promised further support of around $200 million, including the £20 million that the UK is providing this year.

The continuing violence in Darfur is having devastating effects. It must stop immediately. We condemn the continuing violations of the ceasefire by all parties, particularly the violence directed at civilians and attacks on humanitarian agencies. Because of this insecurity the UN and NGOs are unable to reach 470,000 people whom they believe to be in need of their assistance.

We are also gravely concerned by the recent military build-up in Darfur and reports of Sudanese Government military attacks as part of its “stabilisation plan for Darfur”. As the UN Secretary-General has said, this plan is inconsistent with the DPA. Any attempt to take renewed military action and any continued rebel activity would further undermine the prospects of achieving peace and could lead to a further humanitarian catastrophe.

A broad-based and inclusive implementation of the DPA, signed in Abuja on 5 May 2006, remains the basis for stability, peace and reconciliation in Darfur. The UK played a leading role in negotiations in Abuja: the Secretary of State for International Development attended the final days of negotiations in support of the AU mediation to help secure a deal. All parties should work to put its provisions into effect. More rapid progress by the Government of Sudan in disarming the Janjaweed is key. It is also important for the signatories to the DPA to work to bring the non-signatories on board. To this end, the efforts of the SPLM are most welcome.

In the meantime the non-signatories need to be fully involved in the effective monitoring of the ceasefire and investigation of violations through existing ceasefire mechanisms. In this way, they should be fully held to account for fulfilling their obligations as set out in the 2004 N’djamena Agreement on Humanitarian Ceasefire on the Conflict in Darfur.

The UK remains committed to peace in Darfur, and the wider Sudan. We will continue to seek a solution to
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the conflict there. As part of this, we have appointed a new special representative for Darfur, William Patey, a former ambassador in Khartoum, to replace Rod Pullen, who has retired from the Diplomatic Service.

Trade and Industry

Office of Fair Trading Report “Opium Derivatives: A Review of Undertakings Given by Macfarlan Smith”

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): We welcomed this Office of Fair Trading report, which was published on 7 March 2006. As part of its statutory role, the OFT regularly reviews undertakings given by organisations following earlier competition investigations. In this case, the OFT reviewed the undertakings by MSL following a report from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC), and concluded that competition was being impeded by the impact of Government policy in the licensing of imports for opium derivatives. It made the recommendation that Government consider competition when setting licensing policy for the import of opium derivatives.

The OFT recommendation is in line with the Government’s commitment to encourage and enhance the competitive process to bring the wider benefits to the UK economy. Preventing abuse of market power is a key element of this, and it is important to ensure that regulation which affects such market power is operated in a transparent manner. It is therefore clear that Government should regularly review policy decisions such as this to ensure that the detrimental impact on competition is prevented, or, where other objectives intervene, limited. The OFT report has provided an excellent catalyst for such a review, and the Government will commit to repeating the process of review every five years.

During discussion with MSL and other parties while developing the response, a consistent complaint was the lack of a level playing field between the UK and other European countries (something recognised in the original MMC report). Currently, the UK is the only major European producer to allow imports.

There has been limited discussion of this at European level, and the Government are committed to raising this issue again with the European Commission, to develop options for the creation of a single market for these products.

The full Government action plan and copies of OFT’s report will be placed in the Members’ Library. In preparing this response, we have worked closely with the relevant Government Departments, in particular the Home Office, which is responsible for licensing policy and the Department of Health.

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