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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I was with the Foreign Secretary while he was drafting the Statement, and he chose his words very carefully. He is at pains to be as accurate as possible about the situation in Iraq. The fact is that the situation is very different in different parts of the country. There has been less difficulty recently in Basra and probably more in Baghdad. There has been less difficulty in the south of the country and in some parts of the north of the country, but we know that there are pockets where
The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, is quite right: we always knew that post-conflict Iraq would be extremely difficult. I am not sure whether his criticism is directed at both the British and American governments or just the American Government. However, we gave this a great deal of thought. He will be aware, given his excellent contacts with the military, of the care that our military have taken in the way they have conducted themselves in Basra, with their emphasis on getting out of their helmets and into their berets or tam o'shanters as quickly as possible and the sympathetic policing they have carried out in the British sphere of operations. So although a great deal of care has been taken, this has been an honest Statement. Things have not worked out as well as we wished. The Statement puts forward ways in which we hope these issues will be addressed not only by ourselves but through changes the Americans have made in the last few dayschanges which I hope and believe will bring rather better results.
My noble friend said that the United Nations should be the authority. I am not quite sure what she meant by that, and I would be grateful if she could expand on it. Secondly, on the actual role that the UN co-ordinator is supposed to play, is the UN meant to be part of a triumviratea partnership of equals between the two occupying powers and the United Nations? Or is the UN merely there to sit and listen and then gently advise and assist, as the occupying powers might think that it could be of some assistance?
It is no secret that many peopleI am one of thembelieve that the UN is being pushed to the margins on this issue. If my noble friend can breathe some vitality into the role that the United Nations is supposed to be playing, I would be very grateful. But she and the Government have to do it in severely practical terms. We want to know exactly what it is proposed the UN co-ordinator should do. Merely to say that there are nine points upon which he could co-ordinate does not take us very much further.
Finally, what reaction are the Government getting to these proposals from the Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat? Does Kofi Annan welcome the proposed role of UN co-ordinator, or would he be reluctantly prepared to do it if he were pushed into it?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, may I pick up that last point first? As I understand it, the Secretary-General has made it clear that he does not believe that the Security Council should run Iraq. I hope I made that point explicitly in answering the previous questions. Indeed, it was made explicitly in
Let me turn to the point that my noble friend raised about the co-ordinator. I did not go through all nine points because I did not wish to try the patience of the House and I know that a number of your Lordships will want to raise individual questions. However, I hope that I read out enough of the draft resolution to make it clear that the role suggested for the co-ordinator is substantial.
The role being discussed for the special co-ordinator is very substantial. As my noble friend may recall, my right honourable friends were concerned that so far Kofi Annan only has an adviser, and not a particular representative or co-ordinator. It was felt that the role of the person particularly responding to the Secretary-General needed beefing up. There is a substantial response to that in the draft resolution.
As regards the authority, we are trying to spell out the vital role referred to in the Hillsborough declaration. We are talking about the authority to lift sanctions and create a new Iraqi assistance fund to target resources, as well as to make arrangements for the sale of oil and handling oil revenues. Your Lordships have been clear that the authority, particularly for those matters, should come through the United Nations. That is clearly recognised in the draft resolution.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in giving evidence to the International Development Select Committee just before hostilities commenced, Miss Clare Short predicted that as many as 8 million people could become refugees as a result of the hostilities. It is a great mercy that such apocalyptic scenarios have not come to pass and that the kind of problems outlined in her Statement today are the ones with which we are actually having to deal.
Does the Minister agree that the support given her and to the Government from many sides of your Lordships' House was predicated on the basis that we would work, in the aftermath of the hostilities, for a civil society and the creation of a democratic Islamic country in Iraq? Resources now must be piled into that objective, because it will be on the basis of our success or failure in creating an alternative for the 30 years of tyranny that preceded it that our actions in Iraq will finally be judged.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, that is an entirely right and sensible statement from the noble Lord, Lord Alton. The fact is that there were predictions of some pretty appalling outcomes flowing from any military action in Iraq. I do not for one moment underestimate the grief and suffering of many people in relation to the military action, but it has been nothing like as widespread or long-lasting as many feared. They really believed that such terrible consequences would flow from military action, and it is an enormous mercy that that has not been the case.
We have always said that the tests that would be applied by history to the outcome of the conflict would relate to the sort of Iraq that emerged. It should be a democratic Islamic country, as the noble Lord said. A country under the rule of recognised law, living in peace and harmony with its neighbours, would be very much welcomed.
Lord Sandberg: My Lords, we had much publicity before the war started about co-ordination between Britain and the United States. We saw a lot of meetings between the Prime Minister and President Bush, all of which made the prosecution of the war very successful. Since the war, however, there seems to have been very much less co-ordination between this country and America. Given our experience of looking after countries that have been under despotic rulein Malaysia, to mention only one exampleare we having much dialogue with the United States? If we are, it seems to be less publicised.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, a great deal of dialogue is indeed taking place with the United States. The noble Lord is right in saying that there was a great deal of co-ordination before military action, for a very long time. Efforts were made to resolve the issue through diplomatic means, principally through the United Nations. A good deal of discussion took place about military action. However, I do not believe that he is right in saying that there is less co-ordination. I remind him of the declaration at Hillsborough, which was extraordinarily important.
Although it is a separate issue, hand-in-glove with trying to resolve the future of Iraq, there has also been a good deal of discussion between this country and the United States about the Middle East peace process. Your Lordships will acknowledge that that is a separate and different issue, but none the less it is related in the minds of many people to the regional unrest.
There is continuing dialogue, such as on the running of ORHA. My right honourable friend Patricia Hewitt has had discussions about that. My honourable friend Mike O'Brien, who is the Minister with responsibilities for the Middle East, has also been co-ordinating. Your Lordships may also be interested to know that I, too, have played a small role in these matters. I am hoping to go to Washington towards the end of this week to discuss some matters in my portfolio that have a bearing on the situation.
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