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9 Oct 2006 : Column 422W—continued


Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures she is taking to promote democracy and reform in Belarus. [89253]

Mr. Hoon: The UK, in co-operation with our partners in the EU and US, is committed to supporting efforts to develop democracy in Belarus. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has funded projects over
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the past year in a number of key human rights areas, principally via the Global Opportunities Fund Reuniting Europe programme and the Devolved Programme Budget. Projects have focused on local grassroots democracy building and youth participation in democracy activities. Funding has also been provided to expand the knowledge and understanding of human rights law, provide assistance to local non-governmental organisations and independent media. Since 1 November, the UK, as part of the EU, has funded independent radio broadcasts into Belarus. This recently launched £2 million project by the EU will last two years.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether it is her policy to promote closer relations between the UK, European Union and Belarus. [89254]

Mr. Hoon: The UK and EU have stated that they are willing to deepen the relationship with Belarus, but the Belarusian authorities must clearly demonstrate their respect for democratic values, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The UK and EU are committed to supporting democratisation and to demonstrating to the people of Belarus the benefits of closer co-operation. The UK supports current EU policy restricting ministerial level contact. However, the UK and EU will not abandon the people of Belarus. We will continue to help develop civil society and will look for every opportunity to improve contacts at official levels.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the political implications for Belarus were that country to lose its preferential tariff arrangement with the European Union. [89255]

Mr. Hoon: The regulations on the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) clearly state the conditions on which the Preferences are granted. EU member states and Belarus both agreed to abide by those conditions. However, in 2004 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concluded that the Belarusian authorities had seriously violated the basic civil liberties of trade union members and leaders. The European Commission subsequently launched its own investigation in 2005 which agreed with the ILO. It is clear Belarus has not met the standards necessary and is facing withdrawal of preferences, after a long and considered process. The Belarusians have had over two years to answer ILO and EU concerns. The decision is based on the clear criteria for GSP and does not form part of the EU sanctions introduced following the fraudulent elections earlier this year. The political implications were not therefore part of the decision making process. Nevertheless, it should send a signal that the EU is serious about the need for Belarus to honour its international obligations.

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the (a) progress with institution building and (b) growth of civil society in Belarus under President Alexander Lukashenko; and if she will make a statement. [89485]

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Mr. Hoon: The centralisation of power in the hands of Alexander Lukashenko continues in Belarus to the detriment of fundamental freedoms and the development of an independent civil society. Lukashenko has cracked down on civil society organisations, the independent media and the opposition, imprisoning a number of people.

In the build-up to the presidential election on 19 March 2006, the authorities put opposition figures and elements of civil society under intense pressure and closed or suspended independent media outlets (which also faced problems with printing, distribution, and arbitrarily applied fines and costs). The election itself was characterised by fraud and intimidation and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s election observation mission called it “severely flawed due to the arbitrary use of state power and restrictions on basic rights”. Subsequent attempts by the opposition to demonstrate against the result were broken up. Alexander Kozulin, a presidential candidate, was arrested on 25 March 2006 and sentenced to five and a half years in prison on 14 July 2006 for hooliganism and disturbing the peace. Opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich was arrested in April and sentenced to 15 days in prison for taking part in a demonstration on 26 April 2006 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The only independent university in Minsk (European Humanities University) has been closed. Trade Unions also face major difficulties—an International Labour Organisation Commission of Inquiry has concluded that many of the basic civil liberties of trade union members and leaders in Belarus have been seriously infringed. The European Commission, fully supported by member states, has conducted its own investigation confirming these findings.

On 10 April 2006, the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions announced the imposition of a travel ban on 31 individuals, including Lukashenko, responsible for electoral fraud and the subsequent crackdown on civil society. On 18 May 2006 the EU implemented asset freezes against the same 31 individuals and five of the six people previously subject to travel bans.


Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have been held with the United Nations Advisor on Genocide on whether genocide is being committed in Burma. [92328]

Mr. McCartney: I met Juan Mendez, UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, on 27 June to discuss the human rights situation in Burma. I also invited him to come to Parliament to meet Members of both Houses. He is scheduled to visit on 14 November and I hope that my hon. Friend will attend the meeting. In addition, we have offered to help Mr Mendez with his work.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in London and New York are in regular contact with Mr Mendez's office.

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Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the levels of tension between the Tamas and the Guereda people in Chad; and what assessment she has made of the likely impact on (a) central government institutions and (b) the situation in Sudan. [89713]

Mr. McCartney: There is no resident UK mission in N’Djamena. We are aware of armed clashes between the Tamas and the Gorans in the Guereda area in Chad in July and are concerned that conflict among these groups may threaten to destabilise ethnically diverse State institutions, such as the police. We understand these clashes were local to Chad. We will continue to monitor the situation in Chad and any impact it may have on the situation in Darfur.


Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on UK arms sales to China. [92499]

Dr. Howells: All applications from the UK are rigorously assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Export Licensing Criteria, taking full account of the prevailing circumstances at the time of application. This process includes specific criteria whereby we will not issue a licence where there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression, might aggravate existing tensions or conflict in the country of final destination, or that the export may be used aggressively against another country. Criteria 1 covers our international commitments, including sanctions agreed by the EU. Since 1989, China has been subject to an arms embargo agreed by the European Community. Details of all export licences approved to China are available in the Quarterly and Annual Reports on Strategic Export Controls and are subject to detailed retrospective scrutiny by the Quadripartite Committee. The quarterly and annual reports are available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1119522594750.


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of the development of the conflict between Colombian rebels and (a) government and (b) paramilitary forces in Colombia during President Alvaro Uribe’s first term in office; and if she will make a statement. [89553]

Mr. Hoon: During President Alvaro Uribe’s first four years in office, 2002-2006, his government has been actively involved in talks with the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group. The latest round of talks took place in Cuba in April. The government's efforts to begin preliminary talks with the
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revolutionary armed forces of Colombia, the country's biggest illegal guerrilla group, have so far been consistently rejected.

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of October 2005 made clear that we and other EU member states consider that the effective implementation of the Law on Justice and Peace, the legal framework covering disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion of ex-combatants approved by the Colombian Congress in July 2005, will have a positive impact on peace-building in Colombia. On 18 April 2006, the government announced the completion under this law of the formal process of paramilitary demobilisation, which saw over 30,000 paramilitaries demobilise. We urge other illegal armed groups also to engage in peace talks with the government.

We will continue to monitor the situation and work with our partners to help the Government of Colombia address the challenges it faces as a result of the inter- connected problems of internal armed conflict, illegal drugs trade and human rights abuses.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the success of the drug eradication programme in Colombia; how much funding it received; and whether the drug eradication programme in Afghanistan could be improved by using the same techniques. [92125]

Dr. Howells: Last year, the Colombian Government eradicated approximately 170,000 hectares of coca plants. We believe that eradication plays an important part alongside other measures in efforts to combat the production of cocaine in Colombia, but are not currently providing any funding for eradication there.

President Karzai has reiterated his opposition to aerial eradication in Afghanistan on a number of occasions. We agree that aerial eradication would be inappropriate in the Afghan context and support the Afghan Government’s approach which is based on ground-based eradication targeted where there is access to legal rural livelihoods.


Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many letters and emails have been received by heads of UK missions overseas in the past 12 months; what the average response time has been; and if she will make a statement. [92167]

Mr. Hoon: This information is not held centrally and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.


Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she plans to take to ensure that the 5 May Darfur peace accord is implemented by all parties. [87446]

Mr. McCartney: We remain in close touch with the Government of Sudan, Minni Minawi, leader of one faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement, and the
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African Union (AU) and are urging them to move ahead rapidly with the implementation of the agreement.

We are looking at what assistance we can offer to the key commissions which will be set up under the agreement. A key part of the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) is securing broader support for it. In August, the UK’s Special Representative for Darfur and our Embassy staff in Khartoum began a programme of meetings with non-signatories to the DPA in Darfur to secure their support for the DPA. Our ambassador in Asmara has met non-signatories based in Eritrea. We will go on engaging with these groups. We will also continue to call on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to abide by the DPA and to cease hostilities. We are pressing the AU to investigate all acts of violence and ensure that it publicises and takes action on its findings.

The UK has played a leading role in the planning process for an international recovery programme for Darfur, including providing funding and technical expertise for it. And we are helping the AU to publicise the DPA and its benefits in Darfur and across Sudan.

The implementation of the security aspects of the DPA will be helped by the deployment of a UN force in Darfur. The UK piloted the negotiations on Resolution 1706, which mandated such a force, through the Security Council, and has been at the forefront of efforts to persuade President Bashir to accept such a force.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has also launched an initiative with international partners to encourage the Government of Sudan, inter alia, to accept a UN force and to engage properly with the non-signatories. Ministers attended a series of meetings with members of the UN at the UN General Assembly in New York from 18 to 22 September to discuss Sudan. We are working to bring together a broad coalition of countries to deliver a co-ordinated message to President Bashir.

The AU force in Darfur has the task of implementing the security aspects of the DPA until a UN force can take over. We welcome the AU’s decision at its 20 September Peace and Security Council meeting to extend its mandate to the end of the year and to increase the number of troops in Darfur. It is vital that the AU has enough resources to carry out its task. It is important for the UN to provide material and logistical support, as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1706, as soon as possible, and for the Arab League to make good its pledge of financial assistance.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment her Department has made of developments in security and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo since January 2006; and if she will make a statement. [89483]

Mr. McCartney: The security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains fragile, especially in the east, northeast and Kinshasa.
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Congolese militia and foreign armed groups continue to operate throughout the east, abusing local populations. Progress in reforming the security sector has been minimal and the army continue to pose a threat to peace and stability.

The security situation in Kinshasa remains fragile following the violence which took place from 20-22 August. The UN peacekeeping force (MONUC) and EUFOR (EU force deployed to assist MONUC with security over the election period) are deployed in Kinshasa to help quell this violence. The international community continues to press Congolese political and military actors to respect the democratic process and to ensure troops under their command do not restart violence or abuse civilians.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she plans to take to try to stabilise the situation in Ituri Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. [89867]

Mr. McCartney: Pockets of instability persist in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly in Ituri and the Kivus. Over 4,500 Ituri militiamen have been disarmed and demobilised since June following political pressure and military operations by the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC), but some militia groups continue to persecute civilians where they are active.

The United Kingdom joined Security Council (SC) partners in condemning the activities of these groups in UNSC Resolution 1653 in January 2006. We continue to urge regional governments to work together to disarm the groups, push for perpetrators of abuses to be brought to justice and maintain our support for the robust measures taken by MONUC in tackling these militia.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to strengthen the likelihood of free and fair elections in Democratic Republic of Congo. [91659]

Mr. McCartney: The completion of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) election process through a free and fair second round of presidential elections, scheduled for 29 October, is vital for that nation’s political and developmental future. We fully support the efforts of the DRC’s Independent Electoral Commission. The UK has contributed over £30 million in bilateral support to the electoral process. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development visited Kinshasa on 11 September to encourage both presidential candidates to follow the electoral code of conduct and to ensure free and fair elections. We have repeated this message both bilaterally and through a UN Presidential Statement on 22 September. The full text of the statement is available on the UN website at:

International observers, including UK observers, will be deployed on election day.

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Departmental Carbon Emissions

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate she has made of the total carbon emissions from (a) her Department’s buildings in the UK and (b) embassies, consulates and other departmental property based abroad in each year since 1997. [89479]

Mr. Hoon: The total amount of carbon emissions from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s buildings in the UK for the financial years 1999-2000-2004-05 are listed in the following table. Data for 2005-06 is yet to be finalised.

The information for the UK for the period 1997-99, and that for our properties overseas, is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Financial year Tonnes of carbon emissions













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