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Supply of Arms to Sierra Leone: Investigation

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No. Sir Thomas Legg and Sir Robin Ibbs have carried out a thorough and independent investigation of the supply of arms to Sierra Leone. They interviewed all the key witnesses and saw all the key papers. The Foreign Secretary has presented this report to the House of Commons and accepted all its conclusions.

Algeria: Human Rights

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that Algeria is in a state to comply with the standard human rights clause in an association agreement with the European Union.[HL3883]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The standard clause on human rights is an important part of an EU Association Agreement. It requires relations between the parties of the agreement to be based on respect of democratic principles and fundamental human rights. A future agreement with Algeria would necessarily follow this model. The Government supports the EU's commitment to furthering political dialogue with Algeria as a way of contributing to an improvement in the situation there.

Algeria: Presidential Elections

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have, with European partners, to monitor the Presidential elections in Algeria scheduled for April 1999, and whether they will propose that the European Union send an advance mission, to establish whether there is sufficient freedom of association and of assembly to make free and fair elections possible.[HL3884]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Algeria has not yet invited international observers to monitor the April elections. We will consult with EU partners and decide the detail of our approach in the light of circumstances nearer the time.

General Affairs Council, Brussels:9-10 November

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 9 to 10 November.[HL3901]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: See below. GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL, BRUSSELS, 9-10 NOVEMBER 1998: INSPIRED PQ

The General Affairs Council in Brussels on 9-10 November adopted the A points listed in document 12595/98 and noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its

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session of 19 October to 23 October and listed in document 11727/98. Copies of the documents listing the A points and resolutions will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as they become available.

On 10 November the EU held successful ministerial meetings of the Accession Conferences with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The Conferences opened substantive negotiations at ministerial level and marked another milestone in the accession process. Association Councils with Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were also held on 10 November.

The GAC reviewed progress in the Agenda 2000 negotiation. Many member states called for an increase in the pace of negotiation, in particular on the common agricultural policy. The Foreign Secretary called for more progress on CAP reform. Subject to the general rule that no element in the package can be agreed finally until there is agreement on the package as a whole, there was widespread agreement in principle to the Commission's draft pre-accession instruments, though Spain maintained a reserve. The Presidency said that there would be a conclave of Foreign Ministers on 6 December. There was also discussion of a number of detailed aspects of structural funding.

The Commission presented its progress reports on the candidate countries, in advance of discussion at the Vienna European Council.

The Council discussed the humanitarian situation in Russia and agreed that, should Russia formally request food aid from the EU, the Council would examine urgently a Commission proposal on that basis. The Council will discuss a further report on EU policy and assistance to Russia at the 7 December GAC.

The Commission presented two draft regulations on funding the European Strategy for Turkey. The Presidency remitted the proposals for further discussion in Coreper.

The Commission explained progress on the EU/Switzerland negotiations. Ministers urged continued efforts by both sides towards early agreement. The 7 December General Affairs Council may consider this further.

Ministers had an exchange of views on the Middle East Peace Process with EU Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos present, following the Wye River Memorandum. They underlined the importance of the speedy implementation of the Memorandum, the need to avoid unilateral acts, and the need for progress on all tracks of the peace process. The Council condemned in the strongest terms the recent acts of terrorism and urged the parties to do their utmost both to forestall extremist actions and to deny success to extremists seeking by provocation to frustrate the peace process. Ministers also confirmed EU support for a significant political and economic EU contribution to the implementation of the Wye Memorandum.

On Kosovo, the Council reiterated its expectation that all parties, the FRY security forces and the armed Kosovo Albanian groups, comply fully with recent UN Security Council resolutions. It repeated its support for the Kosovo Verification Mission, which should be fully

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operational as soon as possible, and underlined the need for an early start to political negotiations, with the EU's active involvement. It also condemned the action taken by the FRY authorities to prevent the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Louise Arbour, and her team from fulfilling their mission in Kosovo, as well as their recent crackdown on the independent media.

The Council emphasised the EU's continued commitment to support Albania. It welcomed the successful holding of the International Conference in Tirana on 30 October. The Council repeated the call in the EU's recent declaration to the Democratic Party to participate in the 22 November referendum on the constitution. It welcomed the WEU recommendations on assistance to ensure a viable police force in Albania and confirmed the Union's intention to reinforce its contribution to the re-establishment of such a force.

The Council reviewed the continuing crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and its implications for the stability of the Great Lakes region. It agreed that the immediate priorities were the cessation of hostilities; the withdrawal of foreign troops; and all-party negotiations aimed at achieving a political settlement as soon as possible. It stressed the need to respect human rights and humanitarian law. It instructed officials to recommend how the EU could help further, in particular to stem the trafficking in small arms in the region.

At the UK's request, Ministers discussed the situation in Iraq and agreed a declaration emphasising support for UNSCR 1205 and condemning as totally unacceptable Iraq's decision to cease co-operation with UNSCOM.

The Presidency reported on the meeting of EU Defence Ministers on 3-4 November.

Nooh Khalil al-Noor

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have received from the Bahraini Government, following their assurances that the death in custody of Mr. Nooh Khalil al-Noor was being investigated and that the authorities would keep the British Embassy in Bahrain fully informed.[HL3903]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our Ambassador in Bahrain raises this matter regularly, most recently on 3 November with the Interior Minister, who said that the investigation is continuing. The Ambassador will continue to raise the matter until the investigation is concluded.

Overseas Visits by Peers and MPs

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make available to Members of both Houses of Parliament who go on overseas visits at the expense of their hosts information in their possession about the antecedents of those hosts.[HL3904]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Any Member of either House who intends to travel overseas at the expense of their hosts is welcome to get in touch with the respective government department and ask for any unclassified information on their hosts that that department may hold.

Israeli Settlements at Har Homa

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What specific steps they are taking, in conjunction with the European Union and the United States, to prevent the construction of Israeli settlements at Har Homa.[HL3907]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our Ambassador in Tel Aviv has registered our disapproval with senior officials at the announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing on 12 November to issue tenders for construction of 1,025 building plots at Har Homa. We will continue to monitor the situation closely. We regard settlement activity in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem as illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. The US has also said it regards settlement activity as unhelpful to the peace process.

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