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Whether it is lawful for laser weapons to be installed in aircraft (manned or unmanned) or on satellites with a view to use against targets within national airspace or on the ground; and
Whether, given that the United States is beginning development of laser weapons for deployment in Boeing 747 aircraft, they will take urgent steps within the appropriate international arms control bodies to develop controls over space-based and air-borne laser weapons.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have no reason to believe that laser weapons are any less safe than other, more traditional weapons.
Use of laser weapons is governed by the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons), which prohibits weapons which are specifically designed to cause permanent blindness. Thus laser weapons' design and not their deployment is restricted. Space-or-aircraft-based lasers not specifically designed to blind are not prohibited by international law.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of various allegations, none of which have been proven. We have no reason to doubt the legitimacy of the Hungarian people's resounding endorsement of their Government's decision to apply for membership of NATO.
Whether, before deciding whether to agree next month to the enlargement of NATO, they will state their view on: (a) the reorganisation of the NATO command structure to ensure a larger European role throughout; (b) the repartition of the costs of the proposed enlargement among applicant states, European members of NATO, and the United States; and (c) whether NATO should be one element in the United States global strategy as recently suggested by President Clinton, or on the other hand an alliance under full civilian control of like-minded states.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO Defence Ministers agreed the reorganisation of NATO's command structure at the North Atlantic Council on 3 December. The new command structure will give the Alliance the arrangements it needs to be able to perform the wide range of roles which the new strategic environment demands.
Costs of enlargement to common-funded budgets will be borne in accordance with long-standing cost sharing arrangements, modified to take into account budget shares of new members (Poland 2.48 per cent.; Czech Republic 0.9 per cent.; Hungary 0.65 per cent.). NATO's initial assessment of the costs in question is some $1.5 billion over 10 years.
We regard NATO as the bedrock of European security and a key component in our foreign and defence policies. The place of NATO in the United States Government's assessment of its global responsibilities is a matter for that Government.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: NATO is involved in Central Asia with countries which used to be members of the former Soviet Union and which are now Partners of NATO, and (except in the case of Tajikistan) in Partnership for Peace. As elsewhere, NATO's Partnership for Peace promotes stability and security. The newly formed Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, to which all the Central Asian Republics belong, also makes a valuable contribution to this end.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The EU/Israel Association Agreement was signed on 20 November 1995. Once national ratification procedures have been completed, the EU will then need to take a Concluding Decision to allow the agreement to enter into force. The trade provisions of the agreement came into force on 1 January 1996 under an EC interim agreement.
The UK and its EU partners have pressed Israel to relax all restrictions on free movement of goods and people from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. At the UK's suggestion, the EU has also engaged Israel in a dialogue aimed at finding practical solutions to the problems faced by the Palestinian economy as a result of such restrictions.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Embassy in Ankara last made representations on Mr. Besikci's behalf in July 1996. We have expressed our concern to the Turkish authorities about his imprisonment and about the banning and impounding of his publications.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are aware of the reports and views cited in the question. We view with concern the proscription of political parties for the peaceful advocacy of their views. We further regard the banning of the Democracy Party (DEP) in 1994 as inconsistent with the aims of democratic pluralism to which participating states of the OSCE aspire.