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Iran: Visit by UK Experts

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A team of six experts on non-proliferation issues from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and Department of Trade and Industry led by Paul Hare, Head of the Non-Proliferation Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office visited Tehran for

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specialised discussions on non-proliferation issues with their Iranian counterparts on 10 February. Human rights concerns were not raised, as the discussions were solely on non-proliferation issues. We regularly raise human rights concerns with the Iranians in contacts of a broader political nature; for example when the Director (Middle East and North Africa) visited Tehran on 13/14 January.

Kosovo: Refugee Numbers

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest information from Kosovo regarding the numbers of refugees outside the country, of those internally displaced and of villages, houses and schools destroyed.[HL1662]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Precise information on the extent of refugee displacement and physical damage within Kosovo is not currently available, but we estimate as of 30 March that there could be as many as 270-280,000 displaced persons there and a further 225-230,000 outside the province. Destruction of buildings has been widespread.

Iraq: Gulf Co-operation Council Communique

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reason to doubt the reports of statements by HRH Prince Sultan Bin Abdullah Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Aviation and Inspector General of Saudi Arabia, that "Neither Kuwait nor any other Gulf Co-operation Council Member State now fears Iraq" and "We do not believe in the toppling of the Iraq regime under any form".[HL1676]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In the communique which followed its 14-15 March summit, the GCC described Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as a threat to the Iraqi people, its neighbours and regional security and stability. The GCC further condemned the serious direct threats made against the security and sovereignty of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Sudan: Al-Shifa Plant

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have now been able to examine the evidence that the Al-Shifa plant in Sudan was being used for the production of chemical weapons material; and whether the evidence they have is limited to statements made to them by the United States Administration.[HL1677]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is established practice under Section 1(c) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information not to disclose or discuss information received in confidence from foreign Governments.

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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept (a) the opinion expressed by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency that "Iraq is completely free of nuclear weapons and that it does not at present have the practical and technical ability or the materials to make nuclear weapons" and (b) his statement that Israel has "the biggest nuclear reactors for making atomic weapons which the IAEA doesn't have the authority to control".[HL1680]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) reportedly made these remarks during an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab al-Yawm, published on 9 March.

The IAEA has confirmed that its assessment of Iraq's nuclear capability remains as stated in its 8 February report to the President of the United Nations Security Council (GOV/INF/1999/4 of 24 February 1999). It states that while Iraq retains no significant nuclear capability, it notes some outstanding questions and areas of concern (failure by Iraq to supply documentation in support of its declarations; to provide a full account of external assistance to its nuclear programme; or to enact required legislation prohibiting work on WMD). The report also notes that IAEA has been unable to conduct inspections in Iraq since 16 December, and hence can provide no assurance that Iraq is in compliance with relevant SCRs.

The IAEA Secretariat has told us that the Director General did not make the reported remarks about Israel.

Smallpox Virus: Stocks

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 17 March (WA 98) that "the United Kingdom is unaware of any stocks of the [smallpox] virus located in other countries", whether they will discuss with the Israeli Government reports that it is maintaining stocks of the virus.[HL1681]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I would refer the noble Lord to my earlier Answer of 17 March (WA 98). Since the adoption of Resolution 49.10 by the World Health Assembly in 1996, confirming that the stock of smallpox (variola) virus had been reduced and restricted to two centres worldwide, one in Russia and the other in the United States, the United Kingdom has not had cause to raise this issue with any government. The United Kingdom is not aware of any evidence that would substantiate the allegations made in the article published in "The Times" of 29 January 1999 and to which the noble Lord's question would appear to refer.

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Charter on European Security Co-operation

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the drafting of the Charter on European Security Co-operation, under Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe auspices, which was referred to in the joint statement made by Mr. Yeltsin, Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Santer on 18 February, is progressing.[HL1692]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Discussions on a Charter on European Security Co-operation have been taking place amongst OSCE participating states since the OSCE Summit in Lisbon in 1996.

The Norwegian Chairmanship of the OSCE intends to begin detailed drafting work soon, with a view to the charter's signature at the OSCE Summit in Istanbul on 18-19 November this year.

Iraq: UK Allies and Partners

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which are the other parties in any coalition against Iraq of which the United Kingdom is a member. [HL1693]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In different aspects of our policy on Iraq we work with different allies and partners. The US is our principal ally. But we also work closely with many others. Canadian, Dutch, New Zealand, Australian, Belgian, Spanish and Italian ships and aircraft have all played their part in sanctions enforcement in the Gulf. GCC states have supported these operations and also allowed US and UK aircraft to patrol the No Fly Zones, established in support of Security Council Resolution 688. Turkey has also allowed its bases to be used for patrols over the northern No Fly Zone.

Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim Trial

Lord Thomas of Gresford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the Government of Malaysia to ensure that its international reputation will not be damaged if it's commitment to the rule of law, in particular the independence of the Malaysian Bar, is seen to be weakened by the conduct of the Anwar Ibrahim trial.[HL1719]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We take all appropriate opportunities to raise such issues with the Malaysian authorities. Most recently, the Secretary of State expressed concern to the Malaysian Foreign Minister on 15 February about a number of aspects of the trial of former Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim and related developments. Our High Commission has attended the trial regularly and HMG fully associate themselves with the statements issued by the European Union on 2 October and 27 November.

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Chevening Scholarships: The Baltic States

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have completed their review of the Chevening Scholarships; and how many and of what value will be awarded, in 1999-2000, to the three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.[HL1743]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Work is continuing on the cross-Whitehall study of how to attract more foreign students to the UK, including an assessment of the Chevening scheme. The allocation of Chevening funds for the three Baltic states in financial year 1999-2000 is:

    Estonia: £70,622

    Latvia: £65,190

    Lithuania: £71,444

Scholars from the three Baltic states are also eligible to apply for jointly funded Chevening awards co-sponsored by the FCO, British universities, and commercial and other partners.

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