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Bangladesh: Elections

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance his Department is providing to Bangladesh to ensure that the elections scheduled for 29 December 2008 are free and fair. [243879]

Bill Rammell: The Department for International Development contributed £10 million to compile the new voters register, £1.1 million through the Asia Foundation to promote accountability and issue-based non-violent campaigning. We funded a country-wide scheme to motivate vulnerable groups to register to vote. The UK also made financial or human resources available to the EU and ANFREL (Asian Network for Free Elections) election observation missions.

In his statement of the 31 December 2008, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary commented on the successful elections. This is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at:

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Community Relations: Islam

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much funding the Government have provided for research on the ways in which Muslims are perceived in the UK; which Departments have allocated funds for this purpose; and which of the Government’s international counterparts have co-operated with the UK in funding the research. [253702]

Mr. Khan: I have been asked to reply.

The Government have not commissioned any research solely for the purpose of investigating perceptions of Muslims within the UK. A number of pieces of Government research do provide evidence from which it would be possible to infer how Muslims ‘may’ be perceived. Examples of these include:

All of the above research projects were funded solely by the UK Government. It is not possible to attribute costs to the specific elements or questions which relate to perceptions of Muslims in the UK, as one question or interview can be analysed from a number of standpoints.

Cyprus: Peacekeeping Operations

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which officer is in command of the Turkish army in northern Cyprus; what assessment he has made of that officer’s (a) peacekeeping in that role and (b) peacekeeping record; and if he will make a statement. [251616]

Caroline Flint: The commander of the Turkish army in north Cyprus is Lieutenant-General Hilmi Akin Zorlu. He has served in a wide variety of assignments during his career, including as commander of the international security assistance force in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. In the UN Secretary-General’s latest report on Cyprus, he reported that the situation in the buffer zone remained calm and stable and that the opposing forces extended in general good co-operation to the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). He also commended the cancellation by both sides of their annual military exercises. The UK welcomes such steps and would encourage further such confidence building measures.

Cyprus: Politics and Government

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to Turkey to reduce its troop numbers in northern Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. [251414]

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Caroline Flint: The Government have not recently raised the issue of the number of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus with Turkey. This is a central issue that will need to be addressed in the course of negotiations to achieve a comprehensive settlement. We would look to support any measure that helps build trust on the island. In this context, we welcomed both sides’ recent cancellation of military exercises as an important confidence building measure.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the report by the UN panel of experts (S/2008/773), with particular reference to its allegation that the Rwandan Government have provided support to the rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [246297]

Bill Rammell: Accusations that the Governments of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are complicit in supporting rebels are serious, and should be considered carefully in light of the evidence presented. The UK broadly supports the recommendations of the UN Group of Experts in their most recent report.

However, whether these recommendations are followed, and whether sanctions will be applied against anyone as a result of the report, are questions for the DRC Sanctions Committee as a whole. Member states will need to consider collectively what the next steps will be.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make an assessment of the strength of the Lord's Resistance Army following the recent incidents of killing and abduction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [250854]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 26 January 2009]: It is increasingly difficult to obtain accurate figures regarding the strength of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Government of Uganda estimate that there are currently 400-450 LRA combatants split into small groups across the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo towards the borders with Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, as well as around 400 non-combatant women and children (grouped separately).

We have repeatedly condemned the actions of the LRA and the heinous crimes they have committed.

Departmental Catering

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) directly-operated and (b) franchised catering outlets his Department and its agencies provide for staff. [249074]

Gillian Merron: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no directly operated or franchised catering outlets.

Departmental Internet

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which websites were operated by his Department in addition to its main website in the last five years. [251479]

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Caroline Flint: In addition to the main website,, the following websites have been operated by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) web team and the FCO's overseas posts during the last five years:

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