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Earl Russell: The Minister continues to repeat the point about getting people to help themselves. I have no moral objection to that point. But does the Minister understand that these people may well have become homeless because, for some reasons which may have been perfectly good, they found that very difficult to do? Indeed, in many cases they may find it as difficult to help themselves as the Minister and I find it to convince each other.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That is a fairly compelling argument for the noble Earl because we seem to have been unable to convince each other on a number of occasions. However, I am sure he agrees that it is important that so far as possible people are encouraged to help themselves. That is what the provision does. If there are problems with the individual--if he has, let us say, a mental health problem--and he is not in a position to help himself, the local authority would have to help him in those

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circumstances. I am sure the noble Earl will be able to remember better than I that that provision is there in the Bill.

Baroness Hamwee: I share the aspiration that people should be encouraged to help themselves--but also helped to help themselves. Indeed, I would go further and, to the extent that I might have detected it in what the Minister said, I more than agree that the prevention of homelessness should be a major objective of the Bill. However, it is not. Subsection (2) does not make the connection between the advice being appropriate and whether or not it helps to secure accommodation. What the Minister said could be regarded as amounting to, "Tee-hee, we, the local authority, know where the accommodation is but we are not necessarily going to tell you".

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not sure whether it is instant conversion but perhaps I can help the noble Baroness a little and indeed other Members of the Committee who have spoken by saying that we are currently considering whether an amendment is needed to the wording of this clause to clarify the circumstances in which and the extent to which it is realistic for local authorities to rely on the availability of other suitable accommodation. We intend to put beyond doubt that the level of advice and assistance should reflect the level of ability, disability or vulnerability of the applicant in each case. That reinforces the answer I gave to the noble Earl. The level of advice and assistance must be sufficient to enable the applicant to secure suitable accommodation which is available. The Government intend to put forward amendments for consideration at the Report stage. I hope that that answer will go a long way to help those Members of the Committee who have taken part in the debate.

Baroness Hamwee: I think the Minister is trying to help those who are anxious to get on with the next piece of business. On that basis, I shall save the rest of my argument either for later this evening or for the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 267C not moved.]

Lord Lucas: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.25 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

The Balkans: Policy

7.25 p.m.

Lord Kennet rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for a coherent Balkan policy after the withdrawal of the Implementation Force (IFOR).

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may start by thanking the noble Baroness for making it to this debate too, as well as everything else, starting with Nigeria and carrying right on round the globe in all directions. In everything I say, I shall take for granted what is indeed the case; namely, that the armed forces of all the countries concerned in IFOR have been doing an extremely constructive and good tempered job in spite of very great political difficulties.

I come to my arguments. In the Balkans the United States presidential election is riding all our horses. I take as text a remark made by a Serbian television commentator:

    "the success of the peace process on the territory of the former Yugoslavia depends primarily on whether further moves by the international community are founded on facts or not".
Well, so far they have not been. "History" is one fact; "justice" is another. What is not a fact in ex-Yugoslavia is the state of the polls or of party funding as between Mr. Clinton and Senator Dole.

Let me speak first about the international arrangements. Mr. Portillo says that he cannot conceive of something like IFOR being under anything but NATO command, which currently means American command. For future use we must indeed conceive of other commands. NATO is ill at ease today because it was not designed for this kind of operation. The North Atlantic Treaty itself envisages action only in the case of an armed attack on one of its members. No such attack has taken place, and NATO is thus acting outside the terms of its founding treaty. The North Atlantic Council meeting of this month in Berlin bleakly announces:

    "We are in Bosnia".
A fait accompli. That does not change the treaty. NATO is in Bosnia because it is Bosnia; the United States is in command because it wants to be in command.

The OSCE would have been better. This is the kind of thing we set it up for, and our Ministers often refer to its authoritative status. Both Russia and America belong, which the United States sees as a disadvantage, though most Europeans see it as an advantage. Then also it is argued that since NATO has the guns and the money and OSCE does not, OSCE command is impossible. This is pure "impossibilism": all that is needed is the agreement of the NATO signatories to place their assets--not their name--at the disposal of OSCE, and carry on from there. Of course the right organisation above all others would have been the UN direct. But this is the second time now that a well-meaning but hyperactive United States has been allowed to use its great power, despite its massive arrears of payment, to seize the Security Council by the scruff of the neck and tell it what armed intervention to approve.

Another matter for forlorn doubt is the way disarmament is being handled in Bosnia. What are called "light weapons" do not come into the picture at

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all: they are not to be reduced by anyone. Yet, as the House of Commons Defence Committee put it in its recent report:

    "Rearming one former warring faction would appear to be contrary to the purposes of the Dayton Agreement".

The Bosnian Serbs are required to disarm to a certain level. Now "disarm" does not mean that the heavy weapons have to be destroyed, as you would expect: they can also be put on permanent public display or exported. That is very convenient. What "permanent public display" means, God knows. But because the Bosnian Serbs are to be left with a level far higher than that of the Bosnian Croats and Moslems, the latter are to be rearmed by the United States and Turkey, at the expense of Islam worldwide, and trained largely by Turkey, so as to bring them up to the level the Serbs are allowed. That is frankly crazy. Even if the equality is correctly calculated, monitored and enforced, it is still a deliberate injection of new arms into the cockpit of war. The two sides should have been required to disarm to the same really low level, but California needs its arms industry as Candidate Dole does not cease from reminding it and Candidate Clinton, who had hardly forgotten. Perhaps the Government will ask why on earth they are going along with it.

The tragi-comedy of the war criminals is another product of the blind haste with which the whole enterprise has been conceived. Fifty people have been indicted of war crimes and, on the direct orders of Admiral Smith, the United States Commander-in-Chief of IFOR, not one has been arrested. Arresting them might risk American lives, and that comes first--no American body bags. So Karadzic and Mladic, who still control the Serbian entity in Bosnia, are not to be apprehended unless anyone happens to come across them. Come across them? They are the president and defence minister of the Serbian entity. Karadzic has been unanimously adopted by the ruling party for another presidential term.

Tomorrow, Mr. Goldstone, the South African chief prosecutor of the Hague war crimes court, will publish more evidence against them. That is pure charade. Besides, little enough effort has ever been made to bring the Croatian and Moslem war criminals to book, and it is now presumably too late. The best one can say is that it all ought to have been thought out before the court was set up. Who is surprised? These people are national heroes and some will certainly be elected. Then what?

Nobody can fail most ardently to wish these suffering peoples honest and peaceful elections. The Dayton Agreement provided that OSCE should monitor the preparations and say when it would be safe to approve September for the date. OSCE has just reported that it would be, but at the expense of two resignations from the monitoring team who did not believe a word of it and who would not accept the order of the American head of the team, Mr. Frowick, to report what they did not believe.

What do our Government think about American policies in the surrounding countries? Otherwise put, what do they really think America is up to? I have put

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down a great many Questions on this and have always received the answer that that is a matter between the US and the countries concerned, but I shall ask again.

Croatia permitted Iranian arms shipments to transit, contrary to the UN embargo, keeping half of them for itself. The US ambassador in Zagreb, on instructions, turned a blind eye. But nobody remembered to tell the CIA in Zagreb that its head of mission had been instructed to connive at breaking international law (the UN embargo), so it began to observe the ambassador. The matter eventually came out in Washington to mingled horror and jeers. Is that story true or false? It must be remembered that the government of Croatia were also told by Senator Dole on a visit there that the US would unilaterally break the embargo, and it did. Her Majesty's Government knew all about that and kept silent. Why so?

Albania, where there have recently been elections that the OSCE observers determined were improperly conducted, has one of these mysterious bilateral security arrangements with the US, and unmanned aerial vehicles are stationed there to conduct surveillance over most of ex-Yugoslavia. Is it true that at one time the US gave the resulting intelligence to the Moslem and the Croat sides and kept it from its NATO allies? It has been alleged, and it would be good to know. Albania now claims to have been promised priority entry to NATO by Secretary-General Solana, presumably in return for providing the US with those facilities.

The United States has installed a public information office in the self-proclaimed Albanian statelet which is actually part of the Serbian region of Kosovo. Mr. Bakoshi, its self-proclaimed Prime Minister, has said,

    "the role of this office is very significant and important, and we hope it will play not only the role of an observer and informer, but also have a further dimension, more significant and important than this".
In Belgrade recently, Mr. Christopher urged the Serbian Government to grant autonomy to Kosovo, but instead, some say, Mr. Milosevic will go there this week to unveil a statue to Prince Lazar, the Serbian folk hero who fought against the Turks in Kosovo 500 years ago.

Macedonia claims to have a new agreement which gives the US the same position there as it has in Japan, South Korea and Panama: in other words, permanent occupation rights.

The Hungarian Government have said that the US can have the use of air bases, in return for which they too will be allowed to join NATO quite soon. When the Hungarian Parliament complained that they had approved no such thing, the government denied the fact. But one may wonder. And US Air Force officials have even been examining airfields in Romania.

That completes the circle of neighbouring territories in which the United States is setting up bilateral military arrangements outside NATO. So the question keeps asking itself--I assume as much inside the Foreign Office as outside--is there a long-term American plan, or is all really just the hyperactive confusion it seems to be?

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This question leads to a wider but even more immediate one: what is US policy in the Middle East and southern Europe in general? If it exists at all, it seems to have two legs: the promotion of lawless Israel to decisive military ascendancy throughout the wider Middle East through undiminished economic subsidies and the provision of advanced military hardware; and the securing of oil supplies for the US domestic market from both the Gulf and the Caspian. The subjugation of Iran is a subset of each "leg".

These days, the United States is smiling with peculiar fervour upon Turkey. It favours Turkey for the Caspian pipeline. It grants Turkey tremendous arms deals. It supports Turkey in its sabre-rattling in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. It invites and enables Turkey to achieve a surveillance posture over all Israel's neighbours as far as Iran. And it is Turkey it appoints to take on the arming and training of the Bosnian government forces. The United States says that this "equip-and-train" programme will take 800 million dollars and has promised 100 million dollars. Saudi Arabia has provided 50 million dollars, and something seems promised from Malaysia. Bosnia, not surprisingly, says it needs 2 billion dollars. The Bosnian President has just bestowed the Golden Order of Kulin Ban on the Turkish President, and the Bosnian chief of staff has decorated the commander of the Turkish Army with the Lily of Gratitude. Perhaps the Minister knows what these imply. Moreover, Turkey and Croatia itself now seem on the verge of a military alliance.

But Turkey is at the moment a country without a government. It is in fairly dire trouble with the International Monetary Fund; and the democratic deficit is almost total. The Turkish army, which has at the moment a position vis-a-vis its Parliament quite at variance with the positions normally required by NATO membership, is ready to rule as long as it is allowed. The Turkish army is in fact the present government. The President of Israel, on his way to visit the Turkish President last week, told an Israeli journalist travelling with him that neither the Turkish army nor the President would allow the Welfare Party--that is, the Islamic party--to form a government. That party did best in the recent elections. So we are presumably witnessing the umpteenth end of democracy in Turkey. One cannot help wondering whether this was a wise American choice of second favourite son in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Why does the US insist on the installation of an Islamic government in Europe, armed by Islamic powers--Iran in the past, Turkey now? Why does it need to call up the most tremendous ghost in all European history: the ghost of the European war of liberation itself? Before the peoples of Europe could begin liberating themselves from one another, they had to fight for 500 years to liberate themselves from the Asian occupier. Maybe we do not remember this very clearly in our Atlantic island--and of course the Americans do not remember it at all--but this long struggle was a large part of what defined the European identity. The long battle against the Sublime Porte was waged by NATO's own predecessor alliances: the

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Knights of Malta were the NATO of the 16th century; and the final European liberation from Asian rule was within living memory.

All in all, it is hard to think of a more unfortunate, thoughtless and provocative concatenation than Turkey in Sarajevo; Turkey in full military alliance with Israel invigilating Syria, Iran and Iraq; while the US Air Force is stationed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Republics, Oman, and now even Jordan. With all that, and with the Israel-Arab peace process dead, with Libya and Sudan demonised as well as Iraq, Syria and Iran, it looks a bleak future indeed.

I shall try to keep within my 15 minutes, so I end by saying that the European members of NATO need to get their act together to prevent the lasting result of this UN-approved NATO intervention being a series of US client states in Europe's third world and in the Middle East. Never have the security and foreign policy interests of the Europeans more obviously converged.

7.41 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for tabling this Unstarred Question on this very important subject. At the moment IFOR has only six months to go on its current mandate and we need to pay attention to what happens thereafter.

I do not entirely follow the noble Lord in his analysis of the situation. I do not have his sources, but I have spent much of the past few weeks in Budapest dealing with a number of people from the region. From my experience of teaching people from the region over the past few years, I am conscious of how European a power Turkey is. I think that I am right in saying that Turkey's current president was born in Bosnia. We have 3 million Turks living in the European Union. The Kosovo problem, which is a European problem, is deeply connected with European Turkey. The question therefore is how we handle Turkey. It is a complex question which matters much to our interests, although I agree that the Americans sometimes assume that Turkey is a strategic ally in a much simpler case. I think that Turkey is an essential element in any stable peace in south-eastern Europe.

Having said that, I should like to concentrate on what happens in Bosnia after the end of December. We now have the Dayton Accord. Its military provisions have effectively been put into force, but I think that we all accept--I am sure that the Minister will agree--that most of its civilian provisions have not yet been put into effect and that the likelihood that that will happen within the next six months is low. Many of us have considerable doubts about whether it would be desirable to have elections in September. A senior member of the Croatian Government is quoted as saying, "If you want elections in September, you can have them. They will be fraudulent, but you can have them if you like". It would be deeply unfortunate to hold elections which were not well organised and which did not represent an effective contribution to a long-term settlement.

We all understand how little progress has been made on resettlement. We all understand bitterly how little has been done on the question of war criminals, but at least

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we now have an effective force there. As the Minister will recall, many Liberal Democrats, myself included, said at the outset in 1992 that we should send military troops there. Now, at last, we have done so, but we are in danger of removing them before we have begun to achieve a peaceful settlement or a peaceful order which will last for more than a couple of days after we leave.

We are in severe danger of being driven by the pressures of American domestic politics and by the timetable of the American presidential election. We are told that the Bosnian elections have to be held in September because that is part of President Clinton's pledge. Another part of his pledge is that he will get the American troops out by December. I was glad to hear a number of American officials suggest that not necessarily all American troops will leave in December. Clearly, a great deal of discussion is now taking place between governments about the post-December strategy. If we are to have an effective post-December strategy, clearly we cannot follow the US lead. We have to be actively involved in influencing American policy. I am sure that the Minister will tell us that we are actively engaged in doing that.

After all, this is a major test for NATO. The assembling of IFOR has been a great success for NATO, for a changed NATO, and for the kind of alliance which NATO, perhaps enlarged, may be in the process of becoming. However, if the outcome of IFOR is a failure for NATO, and is seen by the public in the United States and in major West European governments as a failure for NATO, that would be disastrous. I am sure that we all share a commitment to a successful transition for NATO from a Cold War alliance to a major part of a new structure in the European order. We will not make that transition successfully unless this Bosnian exercise is seen to be a success, in which case it will have to take a good deal longer.

It may be that the statements by British and French Ministers that we went in with the Americans and we shall go out with the Americans have in some way to be fudged. It may be that we find the Americans over the border in Hungary and only partially still in Bosnia in the new year. I have no doubt that the military forces will have to stay in Bosnia well into 1997 and perhaps beyond. I have no doubt that that has to be done on a coherent European basis, closely allied with the United States and carrying the United States with us as far as we can, but recognising that we may not be able to carry a new American administration as far as we would like.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something about the consultations that are currently under way. Perhaps I may say on behalf of my central and eastern European friends that I hope that those consultations are not only within the five-nation contact group or even only within the mechanisms of the European Union. Many of the associated states of eastern and central Europe have now contributed forces to IFOR. This is one of the areas in which we might use that odd and inefficient vehicle of structured dialogue for some useful purpose to make sure that those who are

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part of IFOR feel that they are contributing to the important process of trying to restore credibility to the European order in that highly divided country.

I expect that we all agree that we are not happy with what is happening in the Bosnian Serb area. I have recently read reports of continuing tension between the government in Pale and the rather more liberal forces in Banja Luka. We are not giving enough support to those who want to shift from Karadzic to those who offer an alternative view. I am sure that we all agree also that we are not entirely happy with the current direction of the Croatian Government. I am glad that the Council of Europe has helped to maintain pressure on President Tudjman. Clearly, we shall have to maintain pressure on him for a very long time. Further, there is a need to continue to exert pressure on the Yugoslav Government. The noble Lord mentioned the Kosovo problem. That problem is in the background. We desperately hope that it will not explode, but how we handle the Bosnian conflict will help to determine whether the situation in Kosovo can be contained or whether, in its turn, it will explode at a later stage.

I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us a little about the process of consultation and the willingness of our Government and others to consider what will happen well into 1997 and to involve all of our partners in IFOR in that process. It is also important to explain that to our publics. There is a need to maintain public support for the exercise in which we are engaged, as a result of which we may spend more money, maintain more men and suffer more casualties.

7.50 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for introducing this debate. I am sorry that it has attracted so few speakers. This is a big and important subject. The Question is couched in fairly wide terms. However, I wish to concentrate on Bosnia and the post-Dayton arrangements. I shall not range as widely as my noble friend and speak about Turkey or Israel. I shall focus attention on the response of the British Government to some of the problems in Bosnia and say a little about the international community. While I recognise that United States domestic politics may be important in affecting policy in the region, I am sure that when replying the Minister will say that she is not responsible for the position of the United States Government. Therefore, my questions are very much directed to the Minister as a representative of the UK Government.

I noted with interest the comments of the Secretary of State for Defence in another place two weeks ago. He said that it was important to consider the need for continuation of a military presence after 20th December when IFOR is due to pull out. He also said it was important that the international community should develop an overall political strategy to deal with the many problems of securing peace in Bosnia. Further, he believed that any military operation should be a NATO operation and should include United States forces. But he placed great stress on the need for a political strategy. He said that what was most needed was an overall political strategy. As part of that, consideration should

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be given to whether any military operation was necessary. It is rather difficult to disagree. I hope that the Minister will be able to elaborate on what her right honourable friend said and put more flesh on the bones or skeleton to which he referred.

Before I turn to that strategy, there is a need to assess the current situation in Bosnia. It is clear that a good number of things are going wrong. The future looks rather bleak. However, I begin on a rather more positive note. After four years of war we at least have peace. The IFOR force of 60,000 plays a crucial role. I am grateful to the 10,000 British troops for their contribution. I believe that my noble friend has already expressed his gratitude.

My honourable friend the shadow Secretary of State for Defence was recently in Bosnia and praised the role of the troops in stabilising the military position and keeping peace between the various factions. He also praised what he described as a unique experiment with the ODA in which the military advanced civilian proposals of a humanitarian nature and the money for the schemes was then released on the spot by ODA officials. That was a most effective channelling of money in Bosnia. He believed that it was paying handsome dividends. I add my support to the efforts of the Minister's department in that respect.

However, I am afraid that I must be rather gloomy and negative about a number of other matters. First, all sides are breaking agreements so far as concerns human rights. The Bosnian Serbs' brutal self-imposed ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo in which 25,000 Moslems were forced out is completely unacceptable. They have also stopped many Bosnian Moslems from returning home. In Mostar Croatian gangs control half the town. There is no contact with the Moslem authorities in the other half. That takes place in a context where, under Dayton, there is meant to be a Croatian-Bosnian federation. Thousands of refugees have been refused the right to return home. There is no free movement of people in what was Bosnia. No wonder the OSCE is in despair. There is no genuinely free media that will be required if there is to be an informed electorate in the elections planned for September.

Those who are wanted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague have not been apprehended. That is true of individuals from all three parties. Mr. Radovan Karadzic may no longer give interviews to the western media. But obviously he still plays a leading part, pulling most of the strings behind the scenes in the Bosnian Serb Parliament. As long as these people remain free the process of political healing cannot easily begin. I ask the Minister whether IFOR should now play a more significant role in securing the arrest of these people. Her right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has said that there will never be a full peace until people who have committed atrocities are brought to justice. If he is right about that, I ask the Minister how these people are to be arrested if not by the international military presence currently in Bosnia.

I turn to the elections. Preparations are fraught with problems. It is hard to see how those problems will be resolved by September. There is no proper electoral roll

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because hundreds of thousands of people who were on the roll are deceased. That opens the way to ballot fraud. Can the Minister say what plans have been made to try to avoid ballot rigging? One must also ask whether the votes to be cast will be free of intimidation. What is being done to try to set up and support a free media during the period of the elections? The OSCE has a huge task ahead of it in that respect. What happened in Mostar last month when the elections had to be postponed does not augur very well for September. Presumably, Mr. Izetbegovic will repeat his demands that all refugees who are not returned home should be allowed to vote wherever they are.

What does the international community intend to do if Mr. Karadzic defies the Dayton provisions that he cannot stand for public office and puts himself forward as a candidate? Again, I should like to know from the Minister what pressures are now being put on President Milosevic, in spite of any protestations he might make, to work to secure Mr. Karadzic's removal from the political scene.

We in this House very much hope that the elections can go ahead as planned. To be forced to delay them would be damaging. Only when they have taken place will it be possible to provide all-Bosnia institutions such as a central bank. But elections which are neither free nor fair would probably be worse than delayed elections. I very much agree with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.

That brings me to policies for the future. The unitary state which was backed by Dayton still looks horribly fragile. While it is easy to blame Mr. Karadzic and the Bosnian Serbs, I regret to say that the nationalist elites on all sides are at fault. President Tudjman has cynically exploited his advantage and appears to have little intention of making the Croatian/Bosnian federation work. Surely it is time to take a tougher line with the Croatians. Here I must endorse my noble friend's criticisms of the United States.

One can but hope that the election results will strengthen the position of the multi-ethnic group, led by Mr. Silajdzic. However, even if its position is bolstered, is it not likely that the Serbian and Moslem-Croat parts of Bosnia will simply go their own separate ways? The worrying question, as I have already suggested, is whether the Moslem-Croat coalition can hold together. If it does not, then Bosnia will be left as a tiny rump state in which the forces of authoritarian fundamentalism could take hold.

I ask the Minister, against this worrying scenario, whether she agrees that there are three or four elements that must be central to a successful policy in the region? First, all the refugees must be allowed home. It is pathetic progress that only some 10,000 out of around a million people have been able to return to their homes. Secondly, economic reconstruction must begin and be implemented quickly so that some degree of prosperity is restored. Thirdly, there are stories that the armed forces of all three parties are now consolidating. Unless all the parties are disarmed there is a great risk that the

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fragile peace will not last. Fourthly, the international war crimes tribunal must try the indicted leaders rather than the small fish who have been arrested so far.

Does the Minister agree that the costs of international action to support these policy goals would be much smaller than a Balkan armed conflict that starts all over again? The efforts of the international community, while considerable, do not go far enough. Is not a further push at permanent peace needed rather than just half-way measures? I know the Minister will not wish to make a commitment to IFOR 2 after December, but without such a commitment--and even more important commitments to the policy objectives I have outlined--we could end up with NATO or the WEU committed in the Balkans for much longer at costs, not just to us, but with consequences to the region which are hard to contemplate.

8.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, tabled a vital topic for debate this evening and I thoroughly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in what she said about it. It has allowed an enormously wide debate on a range of complex issues. I shall do my best to tell your Lordships what I can, but no one will be surprised if I say that I cannot possibly answer for the United States Government at the Dispatch Box. I was not surprised particularly at the tone of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, but I doubt the veracity of some of the things he has read and heard which he repeated in your Lordships' House tonight. I shall suggest to the United States ambassador that he should look most carefully at the noble Lord's remarks. What he will do I cannot say but he may have more chance than I have of answering the noble Lord.

Bosnia has rightly dominated the discussion. So let me seek to outline the strategy which we have pursued and which we intend to follow in the future. I shall pick up at least some of the questions that have been asked.

Our first objectives in Bosnia have already been achieved. I cannot forget that just one year ago fighting was still raging across Bosnia. My staff, our troops and others there were watching, sometimes almost helplessly, as people were driven from their homes. The horrors of war filled our front pages.

There was a very real danger 12 months ago that the conflict might spread beyond Bosnia. That picture changed quickly with the Dayton peace agreement, signed in Paris. With the help of the IFOR troops, Bosnia has been transformed. We have an end to the fighting which everyone worked so hard to achieve. With silent guns, and armies which are being demobilised, whatever the noble Baroness said, we can begin other vital works such as clearance of the minefields because until they are cleared ordinary people cannot go back to normal work. We are busy helping with the rebuilding of power lines, making sure that power supplies are connected to villages and thence to people's homes. There is a positive sign now that the people of Bosnia can look forward to peace and hope for the future rather than the conflict and despair of the past.

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The challenge has been, first, to secure and then entrench the hard won peace. The inaugural meeting of the Peace Implementation Council, hosted by the Prime Minister in London last December, focused on the implementation tasks, both military and civilian. The talks established clear structures to monitor compliance and to co-ordinate the efforts of the international agencies on the ground. I know the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, has some doubts but I hope that by the end of my remarks he will see that the civilian as well as the military effort is beginning to work. It may require a visit such as the one I shall make in a couple of months for him to see how much difference we can see now compared with four or five months ago. Carl Bildt was appointed the High Representative in London and he has done sterling work in identifying the potential problems and proposing remedies. It is not easy, even when you can see potential remedies, to get the parties to agree, but it is remarkable how much advance has been made. I do not think that without Carl Bildt's threat to postpone the April Brussels donors' conference meeting, for instance, the parties would have released the prisoners of war on time. He put his foot down, the prisoners of war were released on time, and the donors' conference then went ahead, enabling us to do more in terms of reconstruction.

Perhaps I may pick up a remark the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, made about giving encouragement to the people of the Republic of Serbia based on Banja Luka as opposed to those directed by Pale. I have seen what is happening in the area looked after by Banja Luka. I was there just a week before Mr. Kasagic its prime minister, was removed. I found not only a great deal of reconstruction taking place with the help of the British IFOR troops, but also that the opposition parties are alive and well to an extent, as I was pleasantly surprised to see, that debate is beginning to take place. I think I am right in saying that there were seven different parties gathered around the lunch table with me in Banja Luka on that visit in early May. Things are changing there. Although there was a setback for a while with Pale trying to dictate terms to Banja Luka, those people are still committed to the efforts they are making. With our encouragement and sane policies, that will continue.

The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Wallace, referred to the role of the NATO-led implementation force, IFOR. We all know that stability on the ground is the prerequisite for a lasting settlement, about which the noble Baroness asked. It is certainly necessary to build the trust and confidence to make the settlement stick.

Under the terms of the Bosnia peace agreement and Security Council Resolution 1031, we are all aware that IFOR's mandate expires in December. IFOR's military mission will have been successfully completed by then. What follows and how it follows are matters to be discussed. I cannot tell the House that tonight because no decisions have been taken. We know that the way in which IFOR has worked has been a great success. So we have learnt from that exercise. The ceasefire has held. The opposing armies have withdrawn behind

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agreed lines of separation, and heavy weapons have been withdrawn to barracks. That is why I say we should not be distracted by speculation or comments from America or even another place about what happens post-1996.

All troop contributors must remain focused on the challenges, of which there are so many, as has been explained in the debate, for the next six months. IFOR has an important role to play in supporting the OSCE election preparations and maintaining a secure environment for civilians throughout Bosnia. I shall return to the OSCE in a moment. Ultimately, only the Bosnians themselves can make peace pay. Only they can create a lasting peace. We can help to police it for a time, but they have to want to give up the fighting. That is why we are concentrating to such a degree on seeking to make reconstruction work.

Let me say, on the issue of reconstruction and the work we are doing--I thank the noble Baroness for her comments--that we are deeply involved. This year alone the UK will spend some £50 million on reconstruction. That is both our bilateral work and our work with the EU. We are working not just in electricity generation and distribution, telecommunications and the gas supply in Sarajevo; we have identified projects in both the Federation and in Republika Srpska. We are already working on them. I have seen the practical benefits to both entities from a single project which links the two. If either party were to interfere with that project, both would suffer. We are seeking to encourage practical cross-border co-operation, integrated networks and communal reconciliation.

The UK is also planning to provide longer term assistance through the Know-How Fund in sectors where we have particular expertise. For the time being it is clear that the contribution we are making in reconstruction, building on four years of significant humanitarian help, is most valued.

I have a senior aid expert working with the Royal Engineers in the Multinational Division South West. We are working with ODA engineers in the international infrastructure management group. A tremendous amount is going on. I had better not dwell on it tonight; if I did I would not have time to answer some other questions.

Assistance to refugees has been part of ODA's work. We have ensured not only humanitarian action; we have helped to get the refugees restarted back in the areas from which they originally came. That is done through the Shelter Housing Trust Fund and the repatriation programme.

I agree with the noble Baroness that the rate of return is slow. But the figure is not 10,000. Seventy thousand refugees and displaced persons have returned to their homes. I believe that the flow will increase as the Dayton Agreement becomes stronger and stronger week by week. That is what we are saying, but we cannot force that return. Mrs. Ogata, the head of UNHCR, has been most careful to try to provide for the return in an organised manner so that representatives of the displaced community can go back to see what the situation is and then take the rest of the community back with them.

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Obviously, it is not yet possible to recommend the lifting of the temporary protection for hundreds and thousands of Bosnian refugees currently in other European countries. But progress is gradually being made. That is an important step forward. The interface between Carl Bildt and UNHCR is important. It helps to bring together the political and the practical. That is another sign and another way in which we seek to make peace pay.

The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Wallace, and the noble Baroness talked about IFOR post-1996. We all know that the principal tasks being carried out now--the zones of separation, the withdrawal of forces, the maintenance of freedom of movement, and so on--are essential. But we must never think of IFOR as responsible for governing Bosnia. It has far more to do than that. It contributes 55,000 troops in total. Britain contributes about 10,500 ground forces and a further 1,000 maritime and air forces. Our force is second in size only to that of the US. All NATO member countries are contributing. In the coming months IFOR's primary task will be not only to maintain a secure environment within which the civilian assistance and reconstruction of which I spoke continues but also to ensure the successful completion of the election process.

I pay a tribute to General Michael Jackson who finished his duties as IFOR commander in the multinational divisional headquarters last week after six months. I wish to quote just one comment he made in handing over to his successor:

    "I can say with great confidence that the armies are back in barracks. We have a very good handle on what their size and activities are, and a fear of renewed fighting between armies has, I believe, been removed".
That optimism is indicative of the progress I have seen in the past six months. It is a great tribute to the British troops serving in the Multinational Division in Bosnia. I believe that it is right that we continue that process. But we must do it with an eye to the future. We are learning from that experience to inform us of the sorts of decisions we should make for the future, which I cannot prejudge in answering the debate tonight.

Certainly, we find that IFOR, with its clear political mandate, larger size, robust rules of engagement, meticulous planning and solid chain of command, has been able to do in six months a great deal more than UNPROFOR, however hard it tried and however good were the soldiers and British commanders serving in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked about arms control. It is clear that the priority, in which we are playing our full part, is the implementation of arms control. There is a great deal of detail on that, and I am prepared to give it to the noble Lord. Britain is playing its full part.

I believe that the noble Lord said, if I noted him correctly, that there was a deliberate injection of arms into this cockpit of war. The United States train and equip policy is to equip the Bosniac-Croat Federation armed forces to a standard capable of self defence. However, it is entirely separate from NATO and IFOR and will not involve IFOR troops. It will focus on the

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Federation and not on the Moslems alone. It will be carried out by a private contractor on behalf of the United States.

We are not opposed to the train and equip programme, but we believe that the most effective way of achieving long-term stability in the region is through the arms control negotiations provided for in the peace agreement and recently agreed upon for the parties. That is why we will not participate in the programme. The US train and equip programme is not yet moving forward. The defence law which needs to pass the Federation Assembly is blocked and the Bosnian Government have yet to meet the requirements of removing all foreign forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked about the role of Turkey. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned it several times. Certainly, Turkey has a major role to play in establishing stability in the region. However, Turkey is a member of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board which provides political guidance to Carl Bildt, the High Representative. We have been working extremely closely with it on that issue. I do not believe that all its influence is negative, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, appeared to believe. I believe that we have to involve it and have to stay very much in touch.

Perhaps I may say briefly but sincerely that the international criminal tribunal will work long after the end of IFOR's mandate. We are determined that that will be a success and we are helping in a number of different ways. The tribunal is receiving increasing co-operation from the parties. That may reduce the need for some of the transporting of suspects to The Hague, the carrying out of aerial reconnaissance, foot patrols and so forth. The work is going on, and it is going on apace.

As regards Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic, they are indicted war criminals. It is unacceptable that they continue to be free and, worse, from time to time exercise power and influence in Republika Srpska. IFOR will detain Karadzic and any other indicted person with whom it comes into contact. But it is not part of IFOR's mission to hunt down Karadzic. However, we welcome IFOR's role in helping to create a secure climate for elections. That means that indicted persons will find themselves at ever greater risk of arrest, which is absolutely right. We shall continue to press Milosevic on the matter and will continue to build up the moderate Bosnian Serbs.

Many other issues have been raised but the final one that I wish to mention is the elections. We are working hard and supporting the OSCE to ensure that the elections which will now go ahead on 14th September can be a success. No one expects Westminster-style conditions to prevail. Much progress has been made in achieving the necessary social conditions for elections to take place. I believe that those elections can successfully take place. We have been to the fore in encouraging the free access of all the parties to the media during the election campaign. The High Representative and the OSCE have secured agreement on fair access to prime TV. We shall do all we can to

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ensure that the parties stick to the agreement and that the code of conduct of all media activities is respected. We have given some £3 million to the OSCE voluntary fund for elections and have seconded people to the mission. We are working hard to make sure that the elections are a success. That is the next milestone down the road.

The future well-being of the region will rest on a partnership between the international community and the parties on the ground. What follows after the elections and after 1996 we cannot yet say. However, we know that the commitment of the international community is not in doubt. More than 1.2 billion dollars has been pledged at the Brussels Conference. The September elections will go ahead. The route ahead must be carefully considered by the international community. The Peace Implementation Mid-Term Review Conference held in Florence produced a useful report and it is agreed that we should have another conference at the end of the year.

In the meantime the key to the future of the region is reconciliation. Britain is playing a major role in ensuring that peace will pay. That is the only way forward if there is to be a just and lasting peace in the Balkans, and that is something we are determined to achieve.

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