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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, in my opening Statement, I hope I made it clear to the House that every possible means through diplomatic channels will be taken in order to avoid the need for any military action. I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, of course the importance of avoiding military action is uppermost in the minds of all of us. The Government will not wish to put the lives of British troops at risk if that is in any way avoidable. But the noble Lord asked: what is the objective?
The objectives are to secure compliance with the Security Council resolutions, not to remove Saddam Hussein. The Security Council resolutions were part and parcel of the way in which we ended the Gulf War. Undertakings were given at that time. The UN agreed as to how to go forward. We cannot now have Saddam Hussein flouting agreements reached at that time on the basis that there would be free access of inspection to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are not being
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, perhaps I may follow up the Minister's remarks in talking about the overall objectives, and to follow also the remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, about the use of military force. I wonder whether the Minister can help the House a little more by spelling out what might be the military objectives. It is one thing to talk in overall terms, as she has; but as we found out only too clearly during the Gulf War, the military objectives had to be clearly spelt out. If we are going to put the lives of service men and women at risk, the country, as well as the services, needs to know what the military objectives might be.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for his question, but I do not think we are at the point where spelling out military objectives can be of any help--certainly not to our own forces, and I very much doubt whether it would be to the forces with whom we would wish to be talking through UN channels. Such military objectives would have to be discussed through the UN and through the proper channels. I do not think that a Member of Her Majesty's Government saying in public what those objectives might be would be in the interest of the soldiers, airmen and seamen who would be defending Her Majesty's Government's stance at the moment. It is hardly sensible to spell out military objectives at this juncture.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, my question relates to what the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said. Does the Minister remember that in our debate on 15th January I pointed out that one of the main factors in making the Palestinian peace process so intractable was the terror which exists in that part of the world because Saddam Hussein has the chemical and biological weapons? The Minister said that she would write to me about it. She did not do so. But she sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf, and I take that as roughly the equivalent of a letter.
In that connection, in the diplomatic discussions going on with our friends and partners, particularly in Europe, is attention being paid to ensuring that no further help goes in the form of either expertise or equipment to Saddam Hussein which would assist in that programme? There is doubt as to whether the barriers to that have been altogether efficacious. It is sad for us that persons trained in this country appear to be playing a prominent part in the preparation of weapons.
The noble Lord mentions the position of our European Union partners. The European Union has been supporting the UN in its efforts to secure Iraqi compliance. Iraq has consistently been discussed at all levels in the European Union during the past month. Our partners are supporting the approach that the United Kingdom Government are taking.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness that we need to secure compliance with Resolution 688. But is she telling the House that a strike by a few Cruise missiles on whatever targets can be imagined within Iraq will persuade Saddam Hussein to toe the line when all diplomatic efforts have failed? Will she think carefully about the words of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and the consequences to our relationships not only with the Arab world but with other members of the Security Council, particularly France and Russia, if the United States and Britain were to take action unilaterally?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, of course Her Majesty's Government and all our allies will think very carefully before the use of any military force. I remind the noble Lord of what I said in my Statement:
It is not an offer to move into the kind of military arena which the noble Lord described to us. Far from it. It is only something to be considered should actions and discussions which are going on at the moment through diplomatic channels fail.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, my noble friend said that the military objectives would have to be discussed later through United Nations channels. Does that mean that in the opinion of the Government there will have to be another Security Council resolution before military action can be taken, or will that be unnecessary?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Iraq's failure to comply with UNSCOM is a clear breach of its obligations under Security Council resolutions, particularly Security Council Resolution 687, which was the ceasefire resolution. Iraq has threatened regional peace and security many times over the past 20 years. Its weapons of mass destruction programme is a clear threat to regional neighbours. Past experience shows that Saddam Hussein would not hesitate to turn the weapons against his neighbours or his own people.
The question of exactly what would happen in relation to military action would of course depend on the circumstances in which Her Majesty's Government and our allies find ourselves, should our discussions through diplomatic channels fail.
The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's Statement informing the House of what action has been taken so far. Can she inform us what action has been taken to warn British citizens and other western European citizens working and living in Iraq?
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Gulf War ended too soon? A good deal of the trouble would have been avoided had it gone on for a little while longer. Will she ensure that should further military action be necessary--and I sincerely hope that it will not be--it is not circumscribed in the way it was previously? I hope that my noble friend will not answer that question!
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I wish to make one point on that. When the Gulf War ended agreements were made. There was a ceasefire agreement endorsed by a Security Council resolution. We all had reason to believe that we had secured the objectives. It is because Saddam Hussein will not stand by the ceasefire agreement that we are in the difficulty that we face today.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, would it help the Government's position if they were to make more of the humanitarian crisis within Iraq, especially with our European neighbours? We are talking about a country which has tumbled; 100 million dollars has been lost from the economy since the Gulf War. This is not the same situation as the Gulf War. There would have to be a lot of convincing of British people as well as our European neighbours. Will the Minister confirm the figures, for example, from UNICEF, that 960,000 children are malnourished? She mentioned humanitarian aid, but would it not be better to raise the humanitarian profile?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I believe that the humanitarian profile of the suffering of the people of Iraq is well understood in the United Kingdom. We are very concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people, but let there be no mistake about it: the suffering of the Iraqi people can be laid directly at the door of Saddam Hussein. He has made it clear that he has other priorities over and above the welfare of his people, as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, reminded us.
Saddam Hussein has many palaces. Since the Gulf War he has built these luxurious presidential residences using money that should have been used to purchase humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people. That includes Iraqi children, as we had cause to discuss in your Lordships' House some weeks ago. Saddam Hussein has spent the money on trying illegally to import weapons of mass destruction to replace those found and destroyed by UNSCOM. Again, the money should have been used to purchase humanitarian supplies.
No one in your Lordships' House should be in any doubt. Saddam Hussein has deliberately taken what we can only describe as a cynical, wicked decision to allow the Iraqi people to starve in order to increase pressure on the international community. The international community may be suffering from sanctions fatigue. He
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