Select Committee on Liaison Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 280-284)


3 JULY 2008

  Q280  Sir Patrick Cormack: Finally, would you agree in general terms with what Archbishop Tutu said at the weekend?

  Mr Brown: Which particular statement are you referring to?

  Q281  Sir Patrick Cormack: When he said that he thought it might be appropriate or might be necessary for a peacekeeping force to be put in to Zimbabwe?

  Mr Brown: There has been some discussion of an international peacekeeping force and that is an option that is obviously on the table. I think we have to bear in mind that all the pressure at the moment is political pressure to try and achieve a desired result. We have to listen also to what the opposition in Zimbabwe are saying to us about what they think is the right course that they wish to see pursued and we have to get the mediators working very quickly to achieve the transition we want to see.

  Q282  Mike Gapes: Prime Minister, you have mentioned several times the African Union and its role, are you disappointed that the African Union, not just on Zimbabwe but on Darfur, has been unable to take more decisive action and more effective action? Is there an intrinsic problem within the African Union in that there are a number of countries which are not democracies and, in fact, some which have worse human rights records even than Robert Mugabe?

  Mr Brown: That is an issue, but I think we also have to remember the African Union is building itself up gradually as an institution that is capable of exercising decision-making power. Much of the work in the Zimbabwe election has not been done by the African Union, it has been done by SADC, who had very clear electoral rules, made it absolutely clear that the Mugabe regime had broken these rules and I think we have to help both SADC and the African Union to play their full part. As far as Darfur is concerned, my own view is that we have been prevented from doing many of the things we want to do by the situation on the ground in Darfur itself. There was a period when we thought we could get rebel groups together and then there was this incursion by the rebel groups. There was a period when we thought we could get co-operation from the regime itself and I think a lot of what is to happen for Darfur is a bringing together of the forces inside Sudan and getting them to come together for peacekeeping talks.

  Mike Gapes: Michael Connarty, last question.

  Q283  Michael Connarty: A further question about Iraq, I thought someone might have asked it. Given the proposals on the carbon law in Iraq, which basically hands over the oil resources of Iraq to the same oil companies which were there when the UK used to run that country, and the proposal for 50 permanent bases for the USA in Iraq, do you share any disquiet that I have, and not just Members of Parliament, members of the public have, that in fact it is turning out to be a war for oil and that what will be left will be American imperialism which will cause the same problems it caused for British jurisdiction when we tried to run the country to take its oil?

  Mr Brown: I do not think the Americans are talking in the long run about 50 bases, I do not think that is the fact, but equally you raise an important question about who is going to develop these resources of Iraq, not just for the people of Iraq but for the benefit of the whole world. You have got a very substantial amount of oil that could make a difference even now to the demand and supply equation for oil. I held a meeting of potential investors in the Basra area because we have set up this group to provide an economic plan for the development of Basra and I found that there were many new companies, companies that had never been in Iraq before, not the old companies, many new companies wanting to help develop the resources of Iraq with the Iraqi people. I think we have to look at the situation on the ground and there is a tremendous amount of work being done by our representative and by the Iraqi Development Forum to try and bring new investors into Iraq so that we can get Iraqi people securing the benefit of their own resource by a partnership between the Iraqi people and these investors.

  Q284  Mike Gapes: Prime Minister, yesterday you made some change to the list of terrorist organisations with regard to Hezbollah and one of the issues that was quoted as the reason for that was the role of Hezbollah in Iraq. Clearly that was not done by Hezbollah coming from Lebanon directly to Iraq, they are going through Iran. Would you like to assess what the role of Iran is at the moment in assisting the people who are killing our troops in Iraq and the potential difficulties that Iran is currently causing to us in Iraq?

  Mr Brown: First of all, can I just say about the announcement yesterday, it was about the military wing of Hezbollah, not about its legitimate political and social wings. It was about evidence that we had accumulated over quite a long period of time of its involvement in terrorism not just in Iraq but also in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That was the basis on which the order extending proscription to the military wing was agreed. As far as Iran and its influence in Iraq is concerned, I think one of the things which happened after Prime Minister Maliki intervened in the Basra area was that a number of the foreign backed militias which were working in Basra were pushed out. What I am hoping happens in the Basra area, and I am pleased Mr Arbuthnot found what I know from the other accounts I have received is happening there, is that there is a greater willingness on the part of local people in the Basra area to take more control over their own affairs and to act within the ambit of democratic or traditional politics rather than resort to paramilitary activity. When paramilitary activity or military activity is pushed out then the Iranian influence in the Province is also reduced. What we are really looking for in Iraq, and it is a time of opportunity, is that as we move from combat to over-watch, we are able to see the Iraqis move from a situation where they have relied on British and American forces to a situation where they have their own armed forces maintaining the military peace, we have police in Iraq that are corrupt-free who are maintaining law and order and we get to a position where we have local government that is working effectively in the Basra area with elections, I hope, by the end of the year and at the same time the economic and social development programme that Mr Connarty talked about, a programme which will give Iraqis in this area a great deal of prosperity because there is an enormous amount of oil wealth, a great port in the area, lots of scope for economic and social development, they will then feel that they have an economic and social stake in the future. I believe that these trends are underway. A year ago I do not think you could have said that. I think now because of the way that we have conducted ourselves and the way that the Iraqi Government has been more determined to reach out, things look as if they are in a better position. We want that more stable situation to extend itself into local government elections and the forces of democracy getting greater control.

  Chairman: It has been an extremely wide-ranging two and a half hours, Prime Minister. Thank you very much.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 28 July 2008