§ 8. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
What assessment he has made of Iraq's compliance with United Nations resolutions.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)
I regret to say that Iraq persists in failing to comply with many of the requirements of Security Council resolutions. It has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction and it continues with gross violations of human rights, including torture, extra-judicial killing and suppression of ethnic minorities. It has also failed to release or to provide any account of the fate of the 600 detainees removed from Kuwait.
The recent threat by the Iraqi Assembly to withdraw recognition of the Kuwaiti border is the latest example of Iraq's wilful failure to accept its obligations to either its neighbours or the international community.
§ Mr. Winterton
I thank the Foreign Secretary for that full and rational reply. He clearly agrees that Saddam Hussein is flagrantly ignoring his international obligations under United Nations resolutions. Does he agree also that many Arab nations are urging Saddam Hussein to work closely with the United Nations and to obey the United Nations resolutions? Even the distinguished leader of Egypt, President Mubarak, blames Saddam Hussein for the suffering of the Iraqi people.
What further steps can be taken to bring Saddam Hussein to account for the danger that he poses to the world?
On a more minor matter, is not Saddam Hussein continuing frequently to violate the no-fly zone, hampering the west in what it is seeking to do?
§ Mr. Cook
On the hon. Gentleman's last point, Saddam Hussein has on one occasion attempted to fly planes in 699 the no-fly zone, which produced an immediate response from us. He has repeatedly threatened the allied aircraft that are enforcing the no-fly zone. We shall continue to enforce that zone and to take necessary measures in self-defence. The House should remember that the no-fly zone is not in any way a threat to the Iraqi people; it is there to defend them against being bombed by Saddam Hussein.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in what he says about the Arab nations. Saddam Hussein's recent speech in which he characterised all other Arab Governments as dwarves and cowards has done much to restore solidarity among Arab nations. They know perfectly well that they are the ones against whom the weapons of mass destruction will be targeted.
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I visited northern Iraq—Kurdistan—just before Christmas? I was deeply moved by the Kurds' view that Saddam Hussein, in violating United Nations Security Council resolutions 986 and 688, was mainly responsible for the suffering in Iraq. Will my right hon. Friend therefore assure me and the Kurds that the Government will take every step, particularly in the United Nations, to ensure that Saddam is not given opportunities to punish his own people further?
§ Mr. Cook
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I was aware of his visit to northern Iraq because it was brought to my attention at the very interesting time at which he was in the Kurdish area. I assure him and the people of that area that Britain will remain committed to making sure that Saddam cannot infringe the no-fly zone. We recognise that Saddam is sustained in power not by public opinion but by the savage, brutal repression of all those who would otherwise challenge him.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
With Saddam clearly not back in his cage, as the Secretary of State promised, the need for a new approach to the Iraqi regime is now very urgent. The French and the Russians are calling for a relaxation of sanctions, which is alarming the people in northern Iraq, who fear that they may lose the oil revenues that they receive for humanitarian purposes directly from the UN escrow account and be forced, once again, to rely directly on Saddam and Baghdad.
Will the Secretary of State assure us that on this occasion the new approach will be properly thought through and that he will ensure not only that Saddam' s capacity to produce weapons is monitored, but that any new approach will give full weight to making sure that food and medical supplies reach the children and people of Iraq who are suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein?
§ Mr. Cook
I can repeat to the hon. Lady and the House the assurances that I have given several times—there are no sanctions against imports of food and medicines by Saddam Hussein and, in a period when he persists in saying that his people go hungry, his harvest in Iraq has increased by 15 per cent. We are certainly exploring how we can build a diplomatic consensus to isolate Saddam Hussein and we are in dialogue with France and Russia on those points.
700 I am unclear as to whether the hon. Lady was seeking the relaxation of sanctions, but if Saddam Hussein wants sanctions to be relaxed, he should comply with the Security Council resolutions and abandon his expensive programme of developing weapons of mass destruction.
§ Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
Will the Foreign Secretary explain why the Government treat Iraq and Israel differently when they are both in breach of UN resolutions? Does he accept that the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of both those countries are outlawed by the United Nations? We know the Government's position on Iraq; will he now explain their position on Israel?
§ Mr. Cook
I have already this afternoon explained our position in relation to the Government of Israel and made it perfectly plain that we greatly regret their unilateral actions which undermine the peace process. If my hon. Friend is attempting to put both Governments in the same box, he should reflect on the fact that Saddam Hussein is the leader of a country in which he has himself used chemical and biological weapons. He used them extensively against his neighbour in the Iran-Iraq war and used them mercilessly against his own people in the Kurdish area where he killed 5,000 villagers when he attacked Halabja. We cannot walk away and leave a man with such a track record in possession of those weapons.