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Afghanistan

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on what consulting assistance the UK is providing to the interim Afghanistan Government in implementing democratic processes. [30271]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government fully support the Bonn agreement and its aim to establish a broadly based, representative and democratic government in Afghanistan. We have pledged approximately £2 million in immediate assistance to the Afghan Interim Administration to support them in their efforts to implement the democratic processes outlined in the agreement.

The UN-led political process is central to this effort. We have also given £1 million in assistance to support the office of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi.

Gibraltar

Mr. Laxton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Government initiated the current round of talks on the future status of Gibraltar under the terms of the Brussels Process. [30620]

Peter Hain: The Brussels Process was established in 1984 by the Government of Lady Thatcher. During the debate on the Queen's Speech on 22 June 2001, Official Report, column 284, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced the continuation of the Brussels Process.

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Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place with Spain on air safety on flights to Gibraltar. [30724]

Peter Hain [holding answer 28 January 2002]: We have had regular discussions with the Spanish Government on a range of issues under the Brussels Process, including aviation security.

I also refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) on 1 November 2001, Official Report, column 811W.

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the creation of a joint Anglo/Spanish body with responsibility for (a) judicial issues concerning Gibraltar and (b) issues concerning the defence of Gibraltar are being discussed under the Brussels Process of talks regarding the future of Gibraltar. [30867]

Peter Hain [holding answer 28 January 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) on 6 November 2001, Official Report, column 122W.

Pakistan

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the staffing levels in the British Consulate offices in Pakistan will be returned to the levels which existed prior to 11 September 2001; and if he will make a statement. [30393]

Mr. Bradshaw: Staffing at the British high commission in Islamabad, the Deputy high commission in Karachi and the British high commission visa and consular office in Lahore has almost returned to the levels prior to 11 September. There are, however, three entry clearance vacancies in Islamabad and Karachi and two in Lahore. We are endeavouring to fill these vacancies as soon as possible. As from 7 January all three posts have been operating a staged return to normal service. Islamabad and Lahore are expected to resume a full service on 4 February and Karachi shortly thereafter.

The number of staff providing consular assistance has remained the same since 11 September.

Colombia

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the links between the Colombian army and paramilitary organisations in Colombia; what recent discussions he has had with the US Administration about these links; what support the UK Government give to (a) Colombia and (b) Plan Colombia; whether such support is conditional on the termination of links between the authorities and paramilitaries; and if he will make a statement. [31256]

Mr. MacShane: Allegations of collusion between the Colombian army and the paramilitaries remain a serious concern and recent reports by the United Nations and human rights groups have been critical of the Colombian Government's failure to tackle the problem effectively. In January 2001, the Colombian Government set up a financial task force to investigate, seize and disrupt the funding of paramilitary groups, and a special military unit

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was created to tackle them. But much remains to be done; laws need to be implemented, weak institutions strengthened, alleged military-paramilitary links investigated and, where proven to exist, terminated.

We continue to have extensive discussions with the US Administration about developments in Colombia, including the paramilitary problem. The US designated the main Colombian paramilitary organisation, the United Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), as a terrorist organisation in September last year. In November, HM Treasury, in co-ordination with US authorities, circulated a list of 25 terrorist organisations (including the AUC) to financial institutions requiring that their assets be frozen.

The UK assists Colombia both bilaterally and via the EU and the UN. The EU aid package for Colombia to which the UK is contributing will support human rights and social and economic measures, including alternative development. I announced a further bilateral contribution of £120,000 to the UN Human Rights Office in Bogota; on 23 January. Britain has also provided training for Colombia's anti-narcotic police and customs officers. The UK has made no financial contribution to Plan Colombia, either bilaterally or via the EU.

Neither the UK nor the EU has tied its aid to specific conditions. Cutting off aid would only hurt the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Colombia.

International Criminal Court

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the USA to encourage them to accede to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. [31264]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 29 January 2002]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not had occasion to discuss this issue recently with members of the US Administration. However, it is frequently discussed between officials and has been the subject of EU presidency demarches in Washington on 30 October and 20 December 2001, in pursuance of the EU Common Position on the ICC.

European Union Business

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list (a) the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for February and (b) the major European Union events for the period between 31 February and July. [32266]

Peter Hain: The following is the information:











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18/19—Brussels—Agriculture Council




The following are the principal events in the EU between 1 March and July 2002 (certain relevant events are also included: the list is based on the information available at the date of issue).

MarchVenueEvent
1BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council (Evening)
1BrusselsInternal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council
4BrusselsEurogroup (Evening)
4BrusselsEnvironment Council
5BrusselsECOFIN
7BrusselsEmployment and Social Affairs Council
11BrusselsResearch Council
11–12BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
15–16BarcelonaEuropean Council
18ToledoTrade Ministers Meeting (Ministerial Informal)
18ToledoEUROMED Trade Ministers Meeting
18–19BrusselsAgriculture Council
23–24BrusselsDefence Ministers Meeting (Ministerial Informal)
25–26BrusselsTransport and Telecom Council
27–28Monterrey, MexicoFinancing and Development Conference
April
5–6LuxembourgMigrations Council (ASEM Ministerial Informal)
8LuxembourgFisheries Council
13–14LuxembourgECOFIN (Ministerial Informal)
15–16LuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
22–23ValenciaEuromed Conference
22–23LuxembourgAgriculture Council
May
25–26LuxembourgJustice and Home Affairs Council
27–30LuxembourgAgriculture Council (Ministerial Informal)
3–4BrusselsTourism Council (Ministerial Informal)
6BrusselsEurogroup (Evening)
7BrusselsECOFIN
9Europe Day
13BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council and Defence Ministers meeting
17–18MadridEU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit
21BrusselsInternal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council
23BrusselsCulture and Audio-visual Council
24–26BrusselsEnvironment Council (Ministerial Informal)
27–28BrusselsAgriculture Council
30BrusselsDevelopment Council
30BrusselsEducation and Youth Council
31–1 JuneBrusselsTransport Council (Ministerial Informal)
June
3BrusselsEmployment and Social Affairs Council
3BrusselsEurogroup (Evening)
4LuxembourgECOFIN
6–8BrusselsForeign Affairs Council (ASEM Ministers)
6–7BrusselsIndustry and Energy Council
10–11BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
10–11BrusselsAgriculture Council
11BrusselsFisheries Council
June
13–14BrusselsJustice and Home Affairs Council
17–18BrusselsTransport and Telecoms Council
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
21–22SevilleEuropean Council
24BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council (possible)
24–25BrusselsEnvironment Council
25LuxembourgECOFIN
26BrusselsHealth Council
July
6CopenhagenASEM Ministers for Finance
12BrusselsECOFIN
12–13KoldingMeeting of Employment and Social Policy Ministers (Informal)
15–16BrusselsAgriculture Council
19BrusselsBudget Meeting
19–21ArhusEnvironment Ministers meeting (Informal)
22–23BrusselsGeneral Affairs Council

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