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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for their resolute support at this time. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked for assurances that there are clear objectives and that these will be set and announced in due course. The clear objective is the implementation of the Security Council resolutions and in that respect untrammelled access of UNSCOM teams to sites in Iraq whenever and wherever they judge these to be right and not at the direction of Saddam Hussein.

The noble Lord raised the question of a Statement to the House in due course about military objectives. I am happy to assure the House that I shall make a Statement when I am able to do so, provided it is consistent with ensuring the security of British forces in the area, something that I am sure the House would wish me to stress.

The noble Lord also asked about the statement to be made by the Secretary-General expanding the oil-for-food provisions. At the moment those provisions extend to 2 billion dollars a year. As I understand it, the Secretary-General will suggest that they be expanded to 5.2 billion dollars. That will be a very considerable expansion, which will enjoy the support of the United Kingdom Government. We wait to see how other colleagues in the Security Council react. I believe that that illustrates very clearly the point I made: our quarrel is with Saddam and not with the people of Iraq. Our commitment to humanitarian aid for the people of Iraq is, I hope, amply demonstrated by the fact that we shall support the Secretary-General in that respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asked very reasonable questions about the military forces in the area and the military objectives. However, I believe the House will agree with me that it would not be

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reasonable for me to answer those questions at the moment. They are being addressed and are under constant review.

The noble Lord also asked about the involvement of the European Union. It is always important to ensure that one's allies are moving in the same direction, but I remind the noble Lord that this is essentially a question for the United Nations. It is the breaking of United Nations resolutions with which we quarrel and it is through the United Nations that we shall seek to ensure that we reach a united decision.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked what the resolution was likely to contain. It is at the moment still under discussion. I hope that we shall be able to reveal whatever comes out of the negotiations with our allies, but at the moment the contents are a matter for discussion and negotiation.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, asked about the composition of the inspection teams. The UNSCOM teams undertaking the latest rounds of inspections comprise 44 personnel drawn from 17 different nationalities. I hope the House will agree with me that that represents not a complete domination of the teams by any single national group but the will of the United Nations as a whole.

4.44 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that we have not yet exhausted all diplomatic means of persuading Saddam to comply with the Security Council resolutions, which is, as she said, the fundamental objective at which we are all aiming? While Mr. Primakov and M. Vedrine are still engaged in their shuttle diplomacy, we must allow them every opportunity to persuade Saddam to draw back from the brink.

Does the Minister also agree that Resolution 687 providing for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction does not itself authorise military action against Saddam in the event of his failure to comply and that it is therefore obvious that the new Security Council resolution about which she spoke will have to contain the authorisation for military action and will therefore have to have the support of France and Russia?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that every effort must be made to pursue the diplomatic channels. We wish every good fortune to Mr. Primakov and M. Vedrine in their efforts to secure that.

The noble Lord also asked about Resolution 687. I believe that that resolution and its successor resolutions give plenty of authority to the UN to move forward on this issue. It is because we recognise the importance of pursuing every diplomatic channel that the United Kingdom Government are seeking a further resolution, not only to give further opportunity for Saddam to think again--we are attempting to give him every opportunity so to do--but also to demonstrate that this is not a question just for the United States, nor a question just for the United States and the United

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Kingdom nor indeed for the P5 countries but an opportunity for the whole of the Security Council to demonstrate a unity of purpose. We shall be looking for that unity of purpose to come from the whole of the Security Council.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, will the Minister accept that for the first time since this whole fiasco started in 1991 I am today encouraged by the heavy emphasis which is being placed on diplomatic efforts to solve this problem? Will my noble friend also accept that I am even more encouraged by the very substantial proposed increase in the oil-for-food provisions to be put to the Security Council today? Finally, perhaps I may ask my noble friend to bear in mind in relation to her comment that our quarrel is with Saddam and not with the people of Iraq--something which I have always accepted--that when governments wage war it is the people who die.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his welcome to the Statement and the emphasis which it places upon the importance of diplomacy and humanitarian aid to Iraq. The suffering of people when military action becomes necessary is well understood, but I hope that your Lordships' House will not be in two minds over this issue. I hope that your Lordships will recognise that, if military action becomes necessary, the cause of that military action will be the intransigence of Saddam Hussein and his failure to comply with Security Council resolutions and the agreements made at the end of the Gulf War as part of the price for ending that war. He has chosen to break those agreements. I am afraid that, if he continues in his intransigence, the difficulties that will flow from that can be laid only at his door.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the drainage of the marshlands of southern Iraq has given Saddam unparalleled access to two of his close neighbours with tanks and ground-to-ground missiles, which, despite being classified as conventional weapons, can traverse an area the size of Wales? With that in mind, will she suggest to her colleagues that, if there is to be bombing of Iraq--and we hope that there will not be--bombing of the dams in the marshlands of Iraq would restrain Saddam's military output and also restore the marshlands for the marsh people of Iraq, who badly need them?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is aware of the dreadful suffering inflicted by Saddam upon the marshland Arabs. The noble Baroness makes suggestions about the way in which any form of military engagement might be taken forward. I thank her for her thoughts on the subject, but I am sure that she would not expect me to respond in detail to the suggestion she puts forward. An important point is involved here. The fact is that during its period of inspection UNSCOM inspectors unearthed enormous quantities of weaponry in Iraq, many more weapons than were used during the course of the Gulf War. They found 48 Scud missiles together with a large quantity of missile components; 38,000 tonnes of chemical weapons

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munitions; 38 chemical missile warheads; 690 tonnes of chemical weapons agents and 3,000 tonnes of chemical weapon precursors. In addition, they found a large biological weapons manufacturing plant dedicated to the production of anthrax and botulinum toxin. The UNSCOM inspectors believe that they have not yet found all the weapons. Knowing of that belief and of what has already been discovered, I hope the House is not in any doubt about the importance of UNSCOM continuing its vital work in Iraq.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that we all share the horror at what UNSCOM discovered and the way Saddam Hussein is prepared to continue with the development of such terrible weapons? Nevertheless, many of us feel a real anxiety about his willingness also to use his own people as human shields in any military conflict. We feel that there may be a dreadful slaughter of ordinary, innocent people in Iraq with whom, as the noble Baroness said, we have no quarrel. In the long term that can only do immense damage both to this country and to the United States in our relationships with the whole Arab world.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I share the anxieties of the noble Baroness. Indeed, I do not know a single individual to whom I have spoken about the serious position evolving in Iraq at the moment who has not voiced exactly the fears put so eloquently by the noble Baroness. As a result of that, any action must be placed under constant review. I can assure the House that the anxieties expressed by the noble Baroness will be taken fully into account.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, bearing in mind the possibility that military action may be used, can the Minister say whether she envisages such action being intended to destroy the weapons to which we take exception or whether the aim will be to force or persuade the Government of Iraq to take that action themselves?

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