TUESDAY 29 APRIL 2003

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Members present:

Donald Anderson, in the Chair
Sir Patrick Cormack
Mr Fabian Hamilton
Mr Eric Illsley
Andrew Mackinlay
Mr John Maples
Mr Bill Olner
Mr Greg Pope
Sir John Stanley

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RT HON JACK STRAW, a Member of the House, Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MR PETER RICKETTS CMG, Director General, Political, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MR EDWARD OAKDEN CMG, Director, International Security, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, examined.

Chairman

  1. Foreign Secretary, may I warmly welcome you and your two colleagues again on behalf of the Committee, Mr Peter Ricketts, who is Director General, Political, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Mr Edward Oakden, who is the Director, International Security at the Office. Foreign Secretary, since last we met, I believe it was on 4 March, much has happened in Iraq and in the area which we are now covering yet the waters are far from settled. It seems clear so far that the worst predictions of those who were questioning you before the conflict have not been fulfilled: there is no fragmentation in Iraq, there were no massive civilian casualties, no massive refugee flows, no involvement of the neighbours in a wider regional war, no use by the Iraqi regime of weapons of mass destruction against the coalition forces and against Israel, and no widespread popular unrest in the Arab world, as you made clear to the House yesterday, no destabilisation of moderate regimes in the region, moderate governments such as the Egyptian government and the Jordanian government, yet clearly the problems of establishing peace are formidable and for many the first images at the end of the war were those of the widespread looting in Baghdad and elsewhere. Was this anticipated?
  2. (Mr Straw) Yes, it was. It is regrettable, but it is a simple fact that whenever a regime has collapsed and that has been followed by a vacuum then almost always that has been accompanied by disorder and looting. I think it is hard to think of an occasion where there has been such a complete collapse of any kind of government when such looting and disorder has not followed.

  3. Was the extent of it anticipated?
  4. (Mr Straw) Yes, it was anticipated. The thing that happened more quickly than was anticipated was the collapse of the regime. The working assumption had been that the Iraqi Government, particularly their regular forces, the revolutionary guard and the special revolutionary guard, would be better organised, have better command and control and put up much more of a fight than they did. During the period after 18 March until the collapse of Baghdad three weeks ago tomorrow in the daily briefings and War Cabinets we had many serious discussions about what had happened to the revolutionary guards and the special revolutionary guards and when they were going to counter-attack and, as it happened, they did not in any great number, so the collapse happened more quickly than anticipated.

  5. Who was at fault in not anticipating these steps?
  6. (Mr Straw) No one is at fault, it is just an inevitable consequence of that kind of warfare. It is greatly to be regretted that there was disorder and looting on that scale. If anybody is at fault, it was the fault of the Saddam regime for there being so little consent and natural law and order in the country. You smile at this but it happens to be true because the reason we are, as were other Western democracies, able to police ourselves with such a light touch is because people on the whole police themselves. That is why police officers are not routinely armed, because there is a natural consent for order and a readiness by the populace itself to support the police. What was extraordinary was the extent to which what order was there in Iraq was there imposed only through terror and not through any consent. If you took the terror away you then got a collapse. If you compare this degree of disorder and looting with other similar collapses then it was relatively small and it was got under control relatively quickly. It does not excuse it, but it was one of the realities of that collapse.

  7. In one of his press conferences the US Secretary for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, almost rejoiced in the looting, saying it was a sign of democracy or of people taking things into their own hands. Do you not share that view?
  8. (Mr Straw) If it is the press conference I am thinking about I would not share the description that you give of Mr Rumsfeld's view about this. I just repeat my point that what order was in Iraq was imposed by terror. People had no history of consent and it took some time to establish a new order. We were in Basra and the south-east sector rather earlier than the American troops were in Baghdad. There was looting and disorder initially at the British sector but it was quickly got under control and we then managed to get the police on side, but as I told the House yesterday, quite quickly the US were able to build up a relationship with the ordinary Baghdad policemen and 2,000 are now undertaking joint patrols and you will have seen far fewer pictures and stories of looting and disorder.

  9. You say there is no history of consent. Do you understand the scepticism of those who regard claims in the US about a great tide of democracy being established in Iraq and in the region? Do you share that scepticism?
  10. (Mr Straw) Sorry, whose scepticism are we talking about?

  11. Of those who question that idealistic view from some in the US administration of a Western style democracy being established in Iraq.
  12. (Mr Straw) Let us be clear, there are a number of people who thought that the military action would take a very long time, there would be very large numbers of casualties and so on, some people here thought that and they are entitled to their view, but that has not happened and they will have to re-examine their own judgments and in the course of re-examining the judgments, which may just turn out to be inaccurate, they are bound to alight on the next thing that they think is going to fail and we are seeing that process take place now. In all the discussions I have had with American interlocutors I have never heard the phrase Western style democracy being used. There is sometimes an assumption, although not from you, that the Americans have no sense of how the world operates outside its own shores, but that is simply not the case. They have got a very sophisticated international relations establishment, sophisticated diplomats and they fully understand that the kind of democracy you can have operating inside Iraq will not be just a replication of the kind of democracy we have in Western Europe or they have in the United States, but the principles of democracy are not western, eastern, northern or southern, they are universal and it is having those principles applied within Iraq which is crucial, but they must be applied in such a way that takes account of Iraq's own tradition, culture and, above all, religion just as in Europe our own democracy also takes account of our culture, tradition and religion.

  13. And that includes a spirit of give and take frequently made through parties. Now that the Baath Party itself has been effectively destroyed in Iraq, are there other major centres for coalescing around other than the mosque?
  14. (Mr Straw) Bear in mind, first of all, that mosques differ in their denominations and persuasions, that is point one. Point two, there is quite a secular tradition in Iraq and that well pre-dates Saddam Hussein. It is a relatively advanced country with a large urban and middle class and yes, what we are seeing now, as we saw yesterday in the meeting in Baghdad, the so-called Nasiriyah II meeting, is the beginning of the development of political parties, some which will be based on religious groups, others not. It is also just worth bearing in mind before we, if I may say so, Chairman, adopt a superior attitude to the relationship between religion and politics in this country that around Europe there are a large number of parties which have an explicit association with a particular church, they are called Christian Democrat parties. They are there and they have had a long tradition to that effect. There are some countries in Europe which until very recently had the most explicit association with a particular church written into their constitution. So this is not something which is unknown to us. In Europe we have been able to develop principles of democracy alongside respect for our own religious traditions and in some cases giving particular authority to particular church establishments in doing so and yet these democracies have developed and I anticipate that if we get things right in Iraq we can get a similar development.

  15. And you would assume that, say, the Shiite Party would be as benign as a Christian Democrat party ----
  16. (Mr Straw) I am not making any necessary assumptions there. I was about to use the adjective naive but I withdraw that. I think it is an error to assume that because people are Shia they are therefore of one view or because they are Sunni they are therefore of one view. Bear in mind that the Kurds are Sunni, but amongst the Kurds they have had a couple of political parties and they were fighting each other until a few years ago and they are relatively united now. The Baath Party was Sunni but they were not exactly an alliance.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  17. Foreign Secretary, I would agree very much with what you have just been saying and, as you know, I have been a strong supporter of the general line the Government has taken here, but I would just like to ask you about one area of manifest failure and that is the looting of the great museums. I find it difficult to understand why, if the resistance was nowhere near what was anticipated, it was not possible to give more adequate protection when everybody knew that these items and these great collections were at risk.
  18. (Mr Straw) It is a matter of very great regret both by the American commanders and by ourselves that this happened, but I am afraid it was a casualty of warfare. The problem that the United States forces faced in Baghdad, albeit that the regime collapsed more quickly than anticipated - and to some extent because the regime collapsed more quickly than anticipated they then had to move into a vacuum which was left by the departure, disappearance, evaporation of the Iraqi troops - was that the American commanders then had to be satisfied that the environment on the streets was a sufficiently safe one for their own soldiers to get out of their armoured personnel carriers and tanks and onto the streets. If they declared a particular sector of Baghdad safe, their soldiers got out on the streets and the soldiers got shot dead then that obviously meant that they resorted to safer tactics until they were sure that the area was secure. Obviously the first priority was for them to secure the hospitals and other essential services. You may recall, Sir Patrick, that there was one occasion where the American troops did indeed get out of their APCs and tanks in order to provide paramilitary policing of a hospital and at least one of these soldiers who was simply on patrol trying to safeguard the hospital was shot dead as he stood there. In those situations commanders are going to order their troops to get back into their APCs. That is part of what happened. For more detail you would have to ask the American commanders.

  19. I would just like to follow this up a little because of course I understand what a terrible predicament these young men and women faced and they were mostly very young and one does not question their bravery or anything like that, but here we have a great national collection of a key civilisation and world history looted in a way which both you and I would regard as deeply regrettable.
  20. (Mr Straw) Sure.

  21. Do we have (a) an inventory of what did exist in the museums, (b) a list of those things which Saddam himself moved out during his evil reign, and we know he did move things out, and (c) a list of what is now left? What are we doing to try and remedy this appalling problem?
  22. (Mr Straw) I do not have those specific lists to hand, but I am happy to provide a supplementary memorandum, Chairman, to the Committee. What I can say is that I know this is a matter of great concern to the American administration at every level, they regret it and aside from anything else, it has not been a good story, of course not. Since Mesopotamia was the source of much of our civilisation, it was also the source of much American civilisation as well, so there are the same linkages. As I told the Commons yesterday, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and her Department are taking a lead in this. They are concerned to provide as much support as they can to the relevant authorities in Bagdad. There was a meeting in our British Museum yesterday or today which is looking at further ways in which the salvaging of what is left and the rebuilding of the museum could be taken forward.

  23. Thank you for saying you will supply that information because that would be most helpful. Can we have your assurance that Her Majesty's Government will continue to attach very high priority to this and will be prepared to make such resources as might be needed, either expertise or financial resources, to put as much right as can be put right?
  24. (Mr Straw) You have my assurance about the priority we attach to it. On the issue of resources, we will do everything we can. I cannot make decisions on behalf of other ministers here before this Committee.

  25. But you will bear all this in mind?
  26. (Mr Straw) Yes.

  27. Can I just ask you one other thing to do with the culture in Iraq. You have talked about democracy, you have talked about the differing opinions within the Shiite, the Sunni and so on. I am very concerned also about the minority religions that are in Iraq, the Christians and the Jews in particular. What steps are being taken to ensure that any democracy that does emerge is fully inclusive and fully protective of the rights of minorities to worship properly and not to be victimised in any way?
  28. (Mr Straw) That is something which is obviously extremely important and should emerge from the process of the formation of an interim administration and then a government which began nationally at Nasiriyah some two weeks ago and had its second stage yesterday in Baghdad. Again, it is worth my reemphasising a point which I made in the Commons yesterday, which is that it is now only 20 days since Bagdad fell and in that period we got through very quickly the period of, yes, highly regrettable looting and disorder. A degree of policing has been established which in some areas is very effective and in other areas less effective, but it has been established. Schools are reopening, hospitals are restarting and now being pretty adequately supplied. You have got field hospitals supplied by Saudi Arabia and Jordan which have been established. When I was in Riyadh two weeks ago I talked to Crown Prince Abdullah and to Prince Saud, the Foreign Minister, about what they were doing to support humanitarian relief in their neighbour country, Iraq, a country with whom at long last they are looking forward to establishing good relations. You have got this process of building governance. Given the international community's imperative to maintain and respect the territorial integrity of Iraq and given within the Iraqi borders you have such disparate communities which are from different denominations and traditions within Islam and then you have Jewish and Christian traditions well represented as well, we are clear that it will be imperative that in the formation of government and democracy there has to be proper freedom of religion and worship allowed, but I think there will be.

  29. And guaranteed in any constitution that might be allowed?
  30. (Mr Straw) Yes.

    Mr Olner

  31. Foreign Secretary, you talked earlier this afternoon and in the House yesterday about the meeting that my dear colleague Mike O'Brien was attending yesterday in Baghdad. I wonder whether there is anything you can report back to us as to how that meeting went. I would be interested to hear what criteria are being used to identify this representative group of Iraqis.
  32. (Mr Straw) About 250 delegates attended, which is four times the number who attended the original meeting in Nasiriyah. They were generally regarded as second tier representatives because a deliberate decision was made by the US-UK to try and not have the conference dominated by "names", which could have led to separate stories and I think that was a wise move. It brought together a broader range of Iraqi participants including opposition exile groups and those who were newly liberated. It did not set up - there was suggestions that it might do but we certainly thought this would have been premature - an interim Iraqi authority, but it is part of a consultation process which will eventually lead to a Baghdad conference for the establishment of an IIA about which I spoke in a major speech I gave a few weeks ago. That is where we are there. It was pretty broadly representative and there will be further meetings both at a national level but also at a local level. One of the things I am proud of is that it was the British forces in the Basra sector who got going the model of local consultations in Basra itself and townships which is a model which has been rolled out across the country.

  33. Is there any difference between the attitude of the Americans and ourselves as to who attends and who determines which groups of Iraqis are entitled to attend?
  34. (Mr Straw) There has not been that I have been aware of, no.

  35. On 28 April you said in the House that President Bush and the Prime Minister had made it clear that the United Nations will have a vital role in Iraq's reconstruction. Can you give us any suggestions, now that the war has finished, as to what that vital role is going to be and how it can be identified?
  36. (Mr Straw) Yes, of course. First of all, the United Nations is playing a central role in humanitarian relief and, as I told the House yesterday, their own office is about to declare the whole of Iraq south of Baghdad as permissive and that is the stage before they declare it completely safe as an area in which the United Nations, its agencies and NGOs can operate, but it is pretty safe now. The United Nations and the International Commission for the Red Cross and other organisations are very active in providing humanitarian assistance. The Oil for Food programme resolutions have been rolled over on two occasions now, what was Resolution 1472 and then last week 1476, so there has been a good process of consultation inside the Security Council and 1476 will expire on 3 June, so there will be discussions in the last couple of weeks of next month with a view to deciding what further regime there is for Oil for Food in the weeks and months after that. That is one area where the UN is already very actively involved. The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has appointed a special adviser to him on Iraq and at the summit in Athens just under two weeks ago Kofi Annan had discussions with a number of Heads of Government including the British Prime Minister and with a group of five Foreign Ministers from the Security Council, Spain, Germany, France, UK, Bulgaria and, as it happened, Igor Ivanov from Russia, who was there for the consultation, about the future role of the UN. Other areas where the UN should be able to play an important role include support for the new governance of Iraq, working with the coalition in support of the Iraqi people. There are the issues I spelt out yesterday about the future of the sanctions policy which we will have to sort out and associated with that is Title II oil revenues, the recognition and protection of Iraq's territorial integrity and the role of the international financial institutions. So there is a wide range of subjects for the UN to be involved in. Precisely how the role develops does not just depend, however, on the view of the United States and the United Kingdom but on the other 13 members present in the Security Council and critically on the other three permanent members. If we are able to secure a co-operative and constructive environment within the Security Council then there will be one hopefully benign conclusion from the discussions. On the other hand, if we cannot then there will be another, but we hope very much for the former.

    Mr Hamilton

  37. Foreign Secretary, Sir Patrick made reference to the importance of different religious minorities including the Jews. I think there is probably about ten Jews left in Iraq, I know many who are in exile. There is a more important group than even the religious minorities that need to play a full part in the reconstruction of Iraq and any future government and that is its women. Colin Powell said on 14 April that meetings on Iraq's future will be a forum for all Iraqis. I understand that at yesterday's meeting there were very few women present and I believe there was one particular woman who wished to attend from this country who is an Iraqi refugee in Great Britain but who was, for whatever reason, not able to attend. I wonder if you could tell the Committee a little bit more about how the coalition intends to ensure, without imposing its will on who will or will not make up the future transitional government, women will play their full part in Iraq's future including those who are currently in exile in Great Britain?
  38. (Mr Straw) First of all, may I say that I am trying to find out what happened to prevent the attendance of this particular woman delegate. That point was raised with me in a phone call this morning by Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry who also has responsibility for women's policies. Secondly, we had Security Council Resolution 13 to 25 passed not so long ago which is a clear injunction on all Member States to ensure the full participation of women at all levels of government inside our own countries. That is an imperative for Iraqi people for the interim authority when it is formed as well as for the United States and United Kingdom. We are doing everything we can to work this in and will continue to do so. Even in this country some organisations are more successful than others in ensuring the proper representation of women within their organisations and even an organisation that I can think of which has been successful has only got 25 per cent representation in Parliament, not the 50 per cent we are looking for.

  39. That is better than one per cent.
  40. (Mr Straw) Sure.

  41. I know how busy you are and I know that Patricia Hewitt is the Minister for Women. However, the questions posed on the radio this morning seemed to be more relevant to your role as Foreign Secretary and I wonder why you were unable to attend this interview on Radio 4 rather than Patricia Hewitt who seemed unable to answer the questions because they are more in your remit?
  42. (Mr Straw) I did not hear the interview. I am hardly slow in coming forward to do radio interviews.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  43. The opposite perhaps.
  44. (Mr Straw) I cannot answer. Although I am busy, let me just say that I regard ensuring that there is a decent representation from women within any future government arrangements in Iraq as almost as important as the need to ensure a good balance between the different communities.

    Mr Hamilton: Thank you, that answers my question.

    Mr Maples

  45. Foreign Secretary, you have said that the looting was anticipated. Presumably the possible need for restoring water and power was anticipated as well. Was there a plan for dealing with these things?
  46. (Mr Straw) Yes, Mr Maples, but what I say is that these things were anticipated, for sure, but it is the nature of armed conflict that what happens does not follow a neat sequence and war is a disorderly process. That is just true and the only certainty about warfare is that the unexpected happens, and within a huge city like Baghdad, it is not possible to anticipate with precision where the problems will come from. Indeed the whole point about warfare is to be as unexpected as you can to the enemy, so it makes for difficulties for all sides.

  47. I accept that, but I am talking about what really happened in the last 20 days or so since Baghdad fell because I think it seems to many of us that whilst it was all planned and executed with quite an extraordinary degree of professionalism and whilst no doubt those commanders could not have anticipated what would happen, they could have anticipated what sort of resources would be needed, yet since the fall of Baghdad, and I do not know if water and electricity have been restored in Basra and Baghdad yet, but certainly until fairly recently there was no water in Basra or electricity in large parts of Baghdad. I would have thought it would be pretty easy to put some sort of security around key installations which we were going to need to use to run the country, some of the ministries and hospitals, and I wonder why it has taken General Garner at least two of those three weeks to get himself a plan. That is what I mean by a plan because if there was a plan, it is not obvious what it was.
  48. (Mr Straw) Yes, there was a plan and of course it was anticipated that we would need to get water and electricity running again. I may say that huge efforts were made by the coalition to avoid damage to these essential facilities and to the extent that they were taken out, I think future analysis will show that it was much more likely due to action by the Saddam regime than it was by the coalition. Because of the improvements in technology of aerial warfare, the targeting this time was much more accurate than it was in 1991 and in the targeting discussions in which I was involved over many months before the military action actually took place, we were down to the detail of, "Did you take out this particular electricity sub-station and what was attached to it?" and so on and very great care associated with that not only to minimise civilian deaths and casualties, but also to minimise the disruption to civilian life which would be caused by breaking up water or electricity supplies. In Basra which (a) is a smaller city than Baghdad and (b) we got to more quickly than the Americans got to Baghdad because it is closer to Kuwait, good progress has been made on the restoration of services, very good progress, and that is best illustrated by the fact that you are not seeing any stories on the television now suggesting the opposite. In addition to that, as I told the House yesterday, in some respects the position in that region is better than it was before the military action started. The waterway into Umm Qasr port is now being dredged to take larger-tonnage vessels than before and British military engineers have reopened the railway between Umm Qasr and Basra which had been lying unused for some time, indeed some years before the Saddam regime and they are intending to open the line from Basra to Baghdad.

  49. You have dealt with one or two aspects of it, but I would have thought that the specific case of early military security could have been put in around vital installations, and it does not seem that that happened, and the hospitals were allowed to be looted as well as important ministries. Why did Jay Garner take two weeks to get there?
  50. (Mr Straw) I think I have answered the question about the immediate problem of disorder and looting. It is a matter of regret. In a more perfect world there would have been a benign environment more quickly, but that was not the reality. There was simply a reality on the ground which had to be dealt with. It was not in anybody's interest, least of all the coalition forces', that there should have been that disorder, or that the museum should have been looted, that hospitals should have been attacked or that ministries should be left unguarded, but commanders on the ground had to make the decisions which they felt it necessary to make, both to secure, first of all, the safety of their own troops and then to ensure military success before they could then move on to do other, as it were, semi-civilian duties. As far as General Garner is concerned, I saw him in Kuwait two weeks ago yesterday. When I saw him it had been only five days after the fall of Baghdad the previous Wednesday. Actually that meeting I had with him had to be re-arranged and foreshortened because he was about to go to Nasiriyah where we had the first meeting, so he was already into Iraq, but he could not go as a civilian into Baghdad until he was confident that the premises they were going to open up in Baghdad were going to be safe, and not just safe from formal military action by the remnants of Iraqi forces, but also safe from guerilla warfare and so on, but he went as quickly as possible. In terms of other collapses of other regimes, I think the coalition has acted pretty speedily and I think in retrospect so it will be seen.

    Sir John Stanley

  51. Foreign Secretary, the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his press conference on April 25th said, "We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship", and that was widely interpreted as being an American statement of policy, that they would not allow the emergence of an Islamic state in Iraq. Is that the British Government's position?
  52. (Mr Straw) There is a very wide difference between a state which calls itself Islamic and a dictatorship, so our position is that we do not wish to see another dictatorship established for sure. The democratic state we do wish to see established because we believe, and I believe very strongly, that the idea of democracy is in the hearts, minds and souls of men and women of every religion across the world, that kind of state will certainly be one which has respect for its majority religion which is Islam. There are other countries around the world which call themselves Islamic, but where there are peaceful changes of government and democratic elections and we are seeing the emergence and development of such states as well. Sometimes it is a painful process, but you do see this and it is something that we have to encourage.

  53. Do you see a risk in Iraq now that what may emerge is a one-party state which may or may not be described as a dictatorship, but may be basically a single-party structure with no right of recourse to universal democratic elections?
  54. (Mr Straw) No, I do not and I think that the diversity of Iraq is such that that will be avoided. It is a diverse country. It is ethnically and religiously diverse and what we have to do is to nurture the development of a pluralist democracy, but one which, as I say, takes account of Iraq's own traditions and has respect for Iraq's dominant religion as well as allowing for religious worship by the minorities.

  55. Would you agree that if the pluralist democracy that you hope for and I am sure we all hope for does not emerge, the US and UK governments will have no ability for real to prevent an alternative form of government coming forward?
  56. (Mr Straw) What we have to do is to work on processes and institution-building which provide the circumstances in which democracy could operate. As I said earlier in answer to the Chairman, Iraqis are sophisticated people and they have quite an extensive middle class, a relatively good education system, a lot of very, very bright Iraqis outside Iraq who I think will go back to Iraq. For sure, there will be serious challenges ahead and it will be some time before you have a perfectly functioning democracy, just as it has been some time in other countries without Iraq's bloody history, but I am absolutely convinced that the future for Iraq and the Iraqis will be infinitely better than its recent past and also that if we in the international community work effectively hard and stay with the Iraqis, they will be able to rebuild institutions there and build new institutions as well.

  57. Could I turn to the role of your Department in Iraq now and its representation in Iraq. Foreign Secretary, did you give consideration to the question as to whether it might not be better for Mr Garner's British deputy, who is effectively the most senior British figure in Iraq at the present time, to be someone from your Department rather than being a serving officer? This is no personal reflection whatsoever on Major General Cross, but in presentational terms and in view of the major policy, diplomatic and essentially civilian issues which need to be carried forward, do you not consider that a member of your Department should not be Mr Garner's deputy?
  58. (Mr Straw) No, I think it is actually very sensible that in the immediate period post the military action, we should have had a senior serving military officer in that post. Why? Because what we are dealing with in the immediate period is the transition between the military environment and a civilian one and I happen to believe that the British military are very well equipped and experienced to deal with that kind of transition and to deal with a shift from high-intensity to low-intensity warfare and then to a paramilitary policing environment. Tim Cross, as I say, is experienced. I had very good conversations with him when I was in Kuwait a couple of weeks ago. I think he will do a very good job and he is supported by number of civilians, quite a number from my Department, from DFID and from other departments as well. In the UK Government, we are able to work pretty seamlessly. I chair a Cabinet committee on Iraq looking at a wide range of issues and bringing government departments together. May I also, however, Mr Chairman, just say that we have had plans in hand to establish a British office, which will be the precursor to a British embassy in Baghdad. We have got the physical elements of that office in transportable form in Kuwait and we have got staff identified, so when we judge the security situation to be acceptable, this British office will move up to Baghdad and we will have obviously a larger and more substantial presence in Baghdad.

  59. Is Mr Edward Chaplin your senior man in Iraq at the moment?
  60. (Mr Straw) No. I think, with a bit of luck, Mr Chaplin is in the office.

  61. I hear you say that, but you referred to him being present at the meeting.
  62. (Mr Straw) He was present at the Nasiriyah meeting two weeks ago. At yesterday's meeting there was Mike O'Brien, our parliamentary colleague, one of the Foreign Office ministers, and Dominic Chilcot, who has been running the Iraq planning unit as well as Mr Chaplin.

  63. I think what the Committee wants to know is what steps you are taking to get the requisite diplomatic personnel with the requisite seniority in place and hopefully playing a very influential role in what is emerging in Iraq, not just leaving the field clear to our US friends.
  64. (Mr Straw) We are working very collaboratively with our US friends and we have been right from the start of this. We have a number of Foreign Office, DFID and other British Government department staff working inside ORHA itself, the organisation headed up by Jay Garner. Some of those are now in Baghdad in the ORHA office. I met most of the British contingent when I was in Kuwait two weeks ago, so they are there anyway. Then separately there are advanced plans for us to establish a British office to represent the United Kingdom and the British Government in Baghdad as a nucleus of a British embassy once there is an Iraqi Government to which this embassy could be accredited.

  65. But do you not feel you should have a senior British diplomatic official as your man in Iraq now? These are crucial moments surely.
  66. (Mr Straw) We do have senior people in Iraq now.

  67. Who is your key person?
  68. (Mr Straw) As I say, Dominic Chilcot is there. We have got people who are ready to go to form the nucleus of a British office. If you are asking me whether I am satisfied with the degree of representation of the United Kingdom in Iraq as well as in Qatar and Kuwait, the answer to that is yes.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  69. Just to follow this on, I did ask you in the House, and I also asked the Prime Minister, whether you would give consideration to having a resident British minister during these crucial times in Iraq. You indicated that you would give that some consideration and the Prime Minister actually said he would give it serious consideration when I put it to him. Nothing has happened. There are precedents for this, as you well know. We have had ministers resident in theatres of war before during the Second World War. Is this something you have given consideration to?
  70. (Mr Straw) One of the consequences, Sir Patrick, of your suggestion, which did not fall on deaf ears, was that Mike O'Brien attended yesterday's meeting in Baghdad rather than simply a senior official. That is in no sense, let me say, any criticism of the officials, but in recognition by us and by the officials that ministers can play a role which officials cannot necessarily play. You are right about the fact that there need to be resident ministers. I think there was a resident minister in Cairo in the War, but these circumstances are a bit different from that. Also it is easier for people to go back and forth these days than it was during the War, so I think to have a resident British minister in Baghdad would look as though we were a government in occupation of Iraq, which we are not. Will there be effective, hands-on representation at a ministerial as well as official level of the British Government in the reconstruction, rebuilding and new governance of Iraq? Yes.

  71. And Mr O'Brien, having been there yesterday, and I take your point about communications being easier and I am not suggesting there is an exact parallel, merely that there are precedents of this sort, is it your intention to ensure that he attends subsequent crucial meetings?
  72. (Mr Straw) Yes.

    Mr Illsley

  73. Foreign Secretary, just to follow on from what Sir John Stanley was saying, very quickly there were demonstrations which appeared given the new-found freedom in Iraq by certain groups calling for an Islamic state and Sharia law. Is there any concern given to those demonstrations?
  74. (Mr Straw) As far as that is concerned, when these demonstrations first started to take place, I said "Good". This is called democracy. There are plenty of people here, at least on this side of the table ----

    Mr Mackinlay

  75. 1968 you are trying to think of!
  76. (Mr Straw) I have been on more recent demonstrations, Mr Mackinlay! In fact I remember one in the rain straight outside this building about something dastardly the previous Conservative Government had done!

    Mr Illsley

  77. They were calling for the interim to Sharia law. Is that a cause for concern?
  78. (Mr Straw) No, we were not demonstrating for that, I do remember that! We were demonstrating against what we felt was Sharia law by the previous Conservative Government! Anyway, that is another story. So far as these demonstrations are concerned, free demonstrations, provided they are non-violent, they are a good indication of a country's freedom and it is good that people feel, after all these years of tyranny when if those Shiites had sought to protest their religion and their particular traditions, they would have been tortured, jailed or killed, it is very good that this has happened. Now, on the issue of Sharia law, again what I would say is that it is very, very important that we should not make generalisations about Islam or Sharia law and there are some Islamic countries in the world which are developing democracies which of course take account of the religious influence in their law, but which are functioning democracies. There are other Islamic countries in the world which have judicial practices which we do not find acceptable, but we should not judge peoples or traditions by labels. We should also bear in mind that our own legal system within Europe owes far more to Judaeo-Christian traditions than it does to any secular philosophers or jurisprudential traditions, so we need to recognise how strongly our society has been influenced by religion. Let us just bear in mind that every day in Parliament there are prayers for the Parliament by the chaplain to the House of Commons who is there to represent the Church by law established. Bear in mind too that one of my solemn duties as Home Secretary was to go to Buckingham Palace about once a month to officiate at the oath of homage which new Anglican bishops had to make to Her Majesty on an oath written by Henry VIII, so we are not a completely secular state and we have a history too.

    Chairman: We need a Pope at this stage!

    Mr Pope

  79. I was going to say, Chairman, that with a surname like mine, one is terribly pleased about the prayers which begin each day in the House of Commons! Can I just turn to weapons of mass destruction. In the course of this conflict, there is the fact that Iraq possessed WMD and it would not comply with the United Nations' inspections team. Could I just put it mildly that it is disappointing that no such weapons appear to have been found yet. I realise it is only 20 days since the fall of Baghdad, but I think everybody would agree that it would have been far better if we could have demonstrated to our own public opinion and to world public opinion that these weapons did really exist. You told the Committee on, I think it was, 4th March that Iraq had a stockpile of such weapons. Can you tell us when we might hope to find that stockpile?
  80. (Mr Straw) Mr Pope, I think it is to be expected that the search for these weapons and for further evidence is not going to be something which is going to happen quickly. Let's be clear about this, that the evidence of the threat and the scale of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programmes was overwhelming and it was so strong that the world community themselves entirely voluntarily passed Resolution 1441 on the 8th November and that resolution begins with the statement that, "The Security Council recognises the threat that Iraq's non-compliance with Council resolutions and its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles poses to international peace and security". There was sufficient evidence to satisfy the Security Council of that as of the 8th November of last year. It is extremely important that we do not just go into some kind of collective amnesia here. The evidence about these programmes, as I say, is overwhelming. It is charted in the 173 pages of the unanswered disarmament questions, unresolved disarmament issues, Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes which UNMOVIC laid before the Security Council late on Friday 7th March, so it is all there. Along with this evidence, there is all sorts of additional circumstantial evidence. There was in addition during the military action the discovery of the chemical protection suits and the antidote, atropine, which was found in possession of the Iraqis. They would not have had either of those if they had not been anticipating their use of chemical and biological weapons because the one thing they knew for certain was that none of the coalition was going to use them. That is the current position. A lot of effort is going into finding further evidence, but this is not about finding evidence as opposed to there not being any evidence. The evidence was and remains overwhelming and we are looking for further evidence.

  81. You would accept that it is important that this is verified. I just wanted to ask really following on from that how we go about verifying it. There seems to be a conflict of opinion here between our Government and the US position. I was under the impression that the Foreign Office had said that our policy was to find and secure Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, working with the UN inspectors, and it seems fairly clear to me that the White House has ruled out any rule at all, I think, for UN weapons inspectors going back to Iraq in the near future. Yesterday our Prime Minister said he wanted to see independent verification of WMD in Iraq and my question is two-fold really. How do we reconcile this difference between the UK and the US positions about the UN weapons inspectors and, secondly, how do we get independent verification that our Prime Minister says he wants without the UN weapons inspectors going back in?
  82. (Mr Straw) It is actually UNMOVIC, Hans Blix who has recognised that the current environment in Iraq is not one in which UNMOVIC inspectors can themselves operate. As I spelled out to the House yesterday, the head of UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, in a statement to the Security Council last week, said, "In a situation that is still insecure, civilian international inspection can hardly operate". He went on, "Some of the premises on which the Security Council established UNMOVIC and gave it far-reaching powers have changed", so for sure that was the case. On the issue of verification and a role for UNMOVIC, that is obviously one of the subjects we are discussing with all of our partners in the Security Council, including the United States. What role is established for UNMOVIC will depend on the outcome of discussions in the Security Council and that in turn depends on whether there is a constructive environment for those discussions or whether we end up by getting bogged down week after week after week in pretty unconstructive discussions without producing a resolution. I cannot say that I am looking forward to an environment like that. I was backwards and forwards to New York in the early part of this year and that process did not do the United Nations any good, but it does depend, as I say, on what role is finally pinned down for the United Nations and its agencies. It does not just depend on the sentiment of the US and the UK, but it depends on the willingness of other parties to reach a constructive agreement. I am quite clear that President Bush and our own Prime Minister Blair meant what they said when they said at Hillsborough that they wanted a vital role for the UN. Now, on the issue of verification, I would just make these observations. First of all, in practice, regardless of where UNMOVIC are sited, the initial finds of any WMD, either direct evidence of chemical biological weapons or materials or evidence of documentation or interviews, will come from the coalition forces, and that is the environment in which they are working, so a lot of that is being made to ensure the integrity of their work and that will continue. Secondly, UNMOVIC itself, as I understand it, did not have laboratories itself to provide for verification, so whether a particular substance was a sarin or was a pesticide, they used a number of independent laboratories and it is highly probable that those independent, third-country laboratories would be used in any event. So I understand the case, of course I do, for having UNMOVIC involved. Of course I understand it, but it is as much a question of how this appears as it is a matter of the realities of the inspection and verification process.

  83. Take the point about UNMOVIC, I saw Hans Blix's comment about saying it was not a secure enough environment for his team to be able to go back in. I notice the US Defence Intelligence Agency now has a team of more than 1,000 military and civilian analysts ready to go into Iraq, it seems to me they are only being provided with half of what the Prime Minister promised yesterday. I am sure they will be very good at verification, but I do not think they will be very good at the independent part of that. If we are going to convince world public opinion I do not see how we are going to get independent verification of the weapons programmes?
  84. (Mr Straw) Discussions with the United States and other colleagues continue. I would also say that it is extremely important that it is not implied that we are in a situation where there was no evidence of the WMD Programme. The evidence is here of the intent of the Iraqi regime before this military action was taken, I put it before the House of Commons. There is also evidence there from the conduct of the Iraqi regime, why did they kick out the weapons inspectors at the end of 1988 if they had nothing to hide? Why did they refuse to cooperate with the Security Council after the passage of the Security Council resolution 1284, establishing UNMOVIC, and continue to refuse to cooperate? We got 1441 through with greater powers and backed that with the threat of military force. Even when the inspectors went in they continued to refuse to cooperate. For example, in respect of a crucial source of evidence, interviews with scientists, they locked up some of the scientists and when UNMOVIC first sought interviews with named scientists the Iraqi Government insisted that five Iraqi Government minders should come along with those scientists. In the end after negotiating, which Blix was involved in, they got that down to one, but there still should not have been anybody there. Despite the clear powers of the inspectors throughout that period, from the passage of 1444 on 8 November until military action was taken on 18 March, they refused real cooperation with the interviews of the scientists and not a single scientist was interviewed in a complete, free environment outside Iraq because of the Iraqi Government's intimidation of those scientists and their families. If they had nothing to hide why on earth were they going for that kind of behaviour? The evidence against them was overwhelming. I hope we will find further evidence, but there is no need to look at the crystal because people can see it in the book.

  85. Can I ask one final question on the WMD which relates to something that was discussed earlier, looting. There is some evidence, some reports in the American press that there is some intelligence that some of the looting has been strategic, not just of people rioting and stealing goods for sale but some of the looting has been strategic, people in the Baath Party stealing to conceal materials relating to weapons programmes, maybe weapons themselves?
  86. (Mr Straw) I am afraid that is one of the many reasons why it is regrettable that disorder had broken out because such things are possible. It is the nature of chemical and biological weapons programmes that they are pretty easy to conceal. The Iraqis found it far more difficult to conceal their missile programme, which is why they had to confess, only under pressure, to holding a number of missiles. Let us also make it clear it came out as a result of UNMOVIC's own enquiries that these missiles were being used for greater than the range which is allowed and they had testing facilities. If I can give one example, if you read the UNMOVIC document - which I am sure you have, Mr Pope, because I put it before the House on 10 March - in the section relating to anthrax you will see on page 98 they said: "Based on all of the available evidence the strong presumption is that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist". That is a very strong presumption. 10,000 litres is a very large amount of anthrax and would be deadly for millions and millions of people. Just to give you an idea of the size of 10,000 litres, a normal petrol tanker can hold 30,000 litres, so what we are talking about here is about one third of a petrol tanker hidden in a country twice the size of France.

    Mr Pope: I was saying that had been quoted in the American press, it had been quoted by the American Government. Douglas J Feith, the Under Secretary of State for Defence was saying there were concerns that some of the weapons of mass destruction ---

    Chairman

  87. I note Dr Blix made his comment a week or so ago, since then you have told the Committee that south of Baghdad the position is permissive. Are you saying that it is possible for humanitarian work to proceed south of Baghdad, but not for UNMOVIC?
  88. (Mr Straw) Yes, in certain cases. There is a difference between the humanitarian organisation that is operating on roads and in what are plainly civilian areas and people having to look for WMD material in military facilities, areas that could be land-mined, and so on. There are very big differences.

    Sir John Stanley

  89. Foreign Secretary, you refer to the fact that the quantities of anthrax in volume terms, 10,000 litres, goes into less than one petrol tanker, can I just take you back to what the Prime Minister said in his speech on 18 March. In relation to much of the Iraq WMD Programme the figures used by the Prime Minister, by yourself and by the Government have suggested really substantial amounts in quantum and therefore difficult to conceal terms. The Prime Minister said: "When the inspectors left in 1998 they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax, a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme, up to 6,500 chemical munitions, at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas and possibly more than ten times that amount, unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulin toxin and a host of other biological poisons and an entire scud missile programme". He went on to say: "We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd". The Prime Minister is clearly on the record as saying that these amounts have not been destroyed in the Government's view and they do in some respects represent sizable physical quantities and are therefore difficult to conceal. As we know the Government made it absolutely clear right up to the paper that it placed in the library just before the war started, Iraq Military Campaign Objectives. I just quote the second sentence: "The prime objective remains to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and their associated programmes and means of delivery". I think there is a lot of puzzlement as to why given these quantum figures nothing has been found so far. I have to ask you, as of today do you have any anxiety that this war may have been fought essentially on a false prospectus?
  90. (Mr Straw) I do not have that anxiety at all, it was not fought on a false prospectus full stop. I have already answered that, Sir John, by saying that one does not have to look into the crystal we can read the evidence in the book. It is here. What the Prime Minister said on 18 March was absolutely accurate. That statement about all of the unaccounted for material and programmes derived from UNSCON's last report made to the Security Council at the end of January 1999, it was then explained to the Security Council why they had a continuing need to remain as inspectors because of all of the unanswered questions still before the Iraqis. You know what the story was. Those inspectors' lives were made so difficult they had to leave. That is what happened. All of these issues, and many more were unaccounted for. It was that report, plus other evidence which the new inspectors built up on, what they had discovered had happened from 1999, that led to this 173 page report.

  91. Foreign Secretary, do you have high confidence as of today that these WMD in the quantities to which the Prime Minister referred will be found?
  92. (Mr Straw) What you are asking me to make a judgment about there is what the Saddam regime has been doing in respect of this material since last summer, and particularly since the military action commenced. I hope very much that the results of the most intensive enquiries that we are making with an awful lot of expert people is to pin down what has happened to them. Has it existed? Yes, without any question. Do we know where it is at the moment? No, because otherwise we would have gone and found it. Sir John, you were a Northern Ireland minister, you talk about this quantity of material, you will know from your experience that the provisional IRA had very extensive material armaments available to them and these are still in dumps, the whereabouts of which we do not know despite the fact there have been thousands and thousands of UK security personnel and police combing a country which is tiny compared to Iraq, with a tiny population compared to Iraq. We have had very good intelligence cover of this country with a lot of agents and despite all of that we still do not know where those weapons are hidden, however we do know that the weapons exist.

  93. Foreign Secretary, would you agree that given the known extreme difficulties of destroying these types of materials, particularly the CW and BW materials would you agree that it is inconceivable that at the outbreak of the war or shortly before the outbreak of the war Saddam Hussein would have been able to destroy his CW and BW capability?
  94. (Mr Straw) That is not a matter on which I can speculate. The answer to your question varies from different materials, some are extremely easy to conceal and some are less easy to conceal.

  95. I am saying "destroy".
  96. (Mr Straw) Ditto in terms of destroy as well. That is one of the questions which is being looked at at the moment. I cannot speculate on that, sorry.

  97. Finally, again I must put this question to you, do you continue to have high confidence in the quality and accuracy of the intelligence you received?
  98. (Mr Straw) Yes.

    Chairman

  99. Is there any evidence that any of the material has been taken outside Iraq?
  100. (Mr Straw) There have been some suggestions in some of the intelligence, but no more than that.

    Sir Patrick Cormack

  101. There appear to have been suggestions too among the documents that have been found of a real link between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda, would you like to say anything about that?
  102. (Mr Straw) I think, Sir Patrick, I am going to have to write to the Committee on that. I would like to say something about that but I am not as informed as I should be.

  103. Perhaps you will get inform yourself and inform us in turn. Perhaps you can deal with another aspect of this, what do you feel has been the impact on the general war against terrorism of the removal of the regime in Iraq?
  104. (Mr Oakden) I have seen the press reports to which you refer on Iraq and al-Qaeda and I do not think they are anything like as definite as some of the press reporting has suggested. Obviously we are looking at that.

  105. Not as definite as the reports on Mr Galloway perhaps!
  106. (Mr Straw) Just to come back to your question, you asked me about the effect of the military action in Iraq against the Saddam regime and its effects more generally on the war against terrorism. I think the effects are completely benign. There were people who said that, amongst other arguments, military action against Iraq should not be taken because it would be a diversion from the war against terror. I have never understood that argument, that you should not do one thing that was right because this could somehow stop you doing another thing that was also right. It was logically and strategically inconsistent. One of the things that we know now without any doubt whatsoever about the Saddam regime is it was actively funding, supplying and supporting terrorist organisations operating within Israel and the occupied territories and paying, for example, the families of suicide bombers, and so on. Removing the regime has already helped to improve the overall security environment within Israel and the occupied territories. It has also enabled us to begin a more vigorous discussion about the support for such terrorist organisations by other countries in the region.

  107. Is this effect in Israel and the occupied territories already discernible in your view?
  108. (Mr Straw) I cannot say whether it is already discernible, but plainly since the regime that has been supporting a large part of the terrorism has been removed it is bound to have a good rather than a less good effect.

  109. On al-Qaeda, specifically going back to the point Mr Oakden came in on a moment or two ago, you will do research on this and if there is anything further on that you will send that to the Committee?
  110. (Mr Straw) I will write to the Committee in any case.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  111. On the intelligence and documentation found by the coalition in Iraq would you consider at some stage publishing a White Paper disclosing the nuggets relating to the relationship, commercial, political and in terms of funding also technologies, between the Iraqi regime and other countries or even states, including EU states, rather than waiting for the 30 year rule?
  112. (Mr Straw) I do not think the 30 year rule appears to be operating very successfully within the Baghdad ministry at the moment.

  113. I think there is a case for a lot of stuff to be out in the open, for instance is there a strong commercial relationship with a number of French companies, perhaps even French politicians, political parties by way of example, and there may well be United Kingdom relationships? I do think there does need to be disclosure, would you consider doing that at some stage?
  114. (Mr Straw) May I first say that I have seen no such evidence myself, let me make that quite clear. Secondly, I am in favour of disclosure and openness, as you will know, Mr Mackinlay, and of publishing White Papers. It is a serious point. I am always happy to consider the publication of White Papers. Let me make it quite clear, you make suggestions about other EU countries, I see no evidence at all of the kind of evidence you suggest of any other EU country.

  115. One of the reasons I supported the resolution in the House of Commons was to prevent or frustrate the future Saddams and future regimes and I think that was an understated case. What measures do you see that this Government can take to ensure that there is compliance with United Nations mandatory resolutions and/or, I do go back to what I alluded to before, we do not, the European Union, the west and other countries tolerate and acquiesce commercially and in technology with other regimes which are in the nature of things unhappily likely to emerge? In a nutshell, how can we prevent or frustrate there being further Saddams?
  116. (Mr Straw) You touch on a really important point, it was not the reason for taking the military action but it is an important consequence. Mr Anderson, this is an issue that we need to elaborate in a further session rather than the last six minutes of this session. Events since September 11 in respect of Afghanistan, terrorism, rogue states and Iraq raise very large questions about the underlying assumptions of international relations and on which international relations have been based historically since the Peace of Westphalia in the middle of the 17th century. Essentially those assumptions were that the best guarantor of peace and security was to respect the territorial integrity of sovereign states, what the states did within their territory was a matter for them however terrible it was, however what they did with other international states was a matter for the international community. Those principles are strongly stated in the United Nations Charter. It is my belief we have to begin a discussion about how those principles are revisited in the modern environment because of threats posed other than by normally functioning sovereign states, posed by rouge states, posed by international terrorism, posed by others who are acting in an extremely oppressive way. I do not give the answers. Any changes will have to have international consent but we have to recognise the fact that the world has changed and your point about how we prevent future Saddams is a really important one. One way we prevent them is by example.

    Andrew Mackinlay: As time is limited can I go on to talk a little bit about Russia.

    Chairman

  117. There may have been some confusion. The deal is there is half an hour remaining.
  118. (Mr Straw) My diary said very specifically 4.30.

  119. Could you confirm that with your entourage?
  120. (Mr Straw) I just have. Normally these arrangements are very clear on both sides.

  121. My understanding is that the arrangement was that this would be a two hour session.
  122. (Mr Straw) My diary was implicit it was 4.30. Can we say I will finish at 4.45 and if necessary we will come back. Sorry about that, that was the clear understanding that I had.

    Andrew Mackinlay

  123. It seemed to me reading between the lines there was deemed to have been a qualitative difference in the conduct and diplomacy of the Russian Federation as compared with some others. It did seem to me that all of the indications are that whilst they took a different view from us it was generally recognised in Whitehall that there was serious efforts by the Russian Federation to try and get the regime to comply. It does seem to me that we need to build up that relationship. The Americans also feel that the Europeans are not doing enough to frustrate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We still have the stockpile in the Russian Federation. We have the G8 Summit in Canada which was supposed to put monies in to help reduce the stockpile. There is inertia there, I understand the West say that Russia has not put in place the right regime and Russia are saying: "We are concerned about this". I have to say that it does seem to me there needs to be a major diplomatic offensive and a resolve to try and get the G8 monies in to Russia in order to remove this terrible threat, both to them and to us, but also it would be good bridge-building in terms of the recognition of the quality difference between their conduct and stewardship and others.
  124. (Mr Ricketts) Mr Mackinlay, as you recall in Kananaskis last year there was a big commitment undertaken by the G8 heads of Government for 10 billion from the United States and 10 billion from the other members of the G8 over 10 years to go exactly towards making safe nuclear material and chemical weapons material and other threatening WMD in Russia. There have been hold ups in finalising arrangements to get that money underway. I think we are now very close and I think before the next G8 heads of government meeting in early June we will sign a multi-lateral agreement with the Russians to get that programme moving.

  125. Is that the United Kingdom or the G8 as a whole?
  126. (Mr Ricketts) That is more a collective matter of which we would be part.

  127. Finally on this question of proliferation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their policy on counter-proliferation refers to a tool box, is there a chance of getting some new international law, I do not mean customer practice, but frankly the trading of technologies and nuclear weapons? What is the prospect of us getting some international agreements which outlaw and regulate the military licensing and weaponry technologies, and so on and so forth?
  128. (Mr Ricketts) The tool box idea was the idea of using all of the various instruments that were available to try and control proliferation, from export licensing arrangements through multi-lateral instruments such as the additional protocols and the additional safeguards in the IAA provisions through to national pressure on individual countries. I think the idea of looking again at the UN arrangements for counter-proliferation is one that certainly does deserve further study in the light of events of recent months rather by analogy of what we have managed to do in the counter-terrorism field following 11 September to look to see whether there is a new UN practice that we can put in place and if it is worth further study.

    Chairman: I would like to initially cover the Security Council, the events leading up to the outbreak of war and then the Security Council looking forward and then obviously the Middle East because of the importance of that.

    Mr Olner

  129. I will be very brief, when 1441 was being negotiated did France at that time provide assurances that it would support a second resolution if Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors? Why when there were so many public indications that the French would not support did we go ahead and circulate the draft resolution on 4 February? When in the time scale of all this, I do think it is of crucial importance, but perhaps a little bit irrelevant now after the success of the campaign, in those crucial days building up to it when did you conclude that the French Government would veto the second resolution come what may?
  130. (Mr Straw) The discussions that took place in late September, the whole of October and early November between ourselves and other key members of the Security Council took place in a very constructive environment and one of the issues was whether or not a second resolution would be required before military action could take place in respect of a failure by Iraq to meet its obligation. As I think is now very well known the Russians and the French proposed, although they did not move, that there should be a lock-in in what became 1441 preventing military action unless there was a second resolution. There was then negotiation between ourselves, the US, France, Russia and China. The long and the short of that negotiation was that France and Russia accepted that a second resolution was not needed and instead they settled for the procedure that was laid down by operational paragraphs 4, 11, 12 and 13. Paragraph 4 of the resolution sets out what would be a further material breach by Iraq. Paragraph 1 having already said they are in further material breach, paragraph 4 sets out what would amount to a future material breach; 11 talked about a report from the inspectors; 12 that there would then be a further consideration by the Security Council and 13 asserted that if Iraq failed to meet its obligations serious consequences would follow. You cannot read that resolution nor know its negotiating history without knowing that it was accepted on all sides that a further resolution would not necessarily be needed. It was equally accepted by us that there was no "automaticity" in 1441. In other words there had to be a process leading towards any military action in the event of non-compliance by Iraq, which process we followed through. That is the background there. You then asked why we moved a second resolution, notwithstanding the fact that it looked as though there were going to be difficulties. Mr Olner, you may think there are going to be difficulties in a forum, it must be your experience as it is ours, until you put people to the test you do not know that for certain. There were plenty of difficulties anticipated with 1441 which did not arise. That was in late February. I then moved a variation of that at the meeting of the Security Council on 7 March, a few days after I last gave evidence here, that was a Friday, and it was not until the following Monday that President Chirac gave his televised interview, in which he said whatever the circumstances France would vote no. It was not until that point we had confirmation by the Head of State of Government in France that we knew that the second resolution was not going to be possible to get passed.

    Mr Hamilton

  131. On 27 March I was privileged to host a meeting of your esteemed opposite number in France Dominique de Villepin here in the House of Commons with about 50 MPs and during the course of that meeting the French foreign minister said to the meeting of MPs that the fact was that there were only five, or so, members of the Security Council who had agreed to support a second resolution before President Chirac had announced he would veto come what may, what is your comment on that?
  132. (Mr Straw) My comment on that is it depends how you do the arithmetic. We were confident that there would have been nine or ten members of the Security Council supporting the propositions we were coming forward with until first of all there were strong rumours that France was going to veto come what may and then finally confirmation by that. Once those strong rumours had started gaining traction with the elected members of the Security Council it became difficult and there came a point where it was impossible because their argument was, why should they put their head above the parapet when they knew that the resolution was going to be vetoed. If the climate of opinion amongst the Permanent Five had been different there would easily have been at least ten. Everyone knew what 1441 meant and said. It was very clear. If you go through all the telegrams and records, if I just consult my memory of the negotiating history, part of the issue between us in the lengthy and intensive discussions in those seven weeks leading up to 1441 was about the circumstances in which military action would be necessary. That is just the situation. There was not any dubiety about this, we were not concealing our intentions, it was at the heart of some of the arguments.

    (Mr Ricketts) I wanted to add one sentence, even two or three days before the passage of 1441 we would not have known it was going to be a unanimous resolution, you cannot tell until the moment comes to vote what the voting figures are going to be like and that second resolution did give the Security Council the opportunity to unite round an important proposition if they choose to do so.

  133. Mr de Villepin on 27 March was trying to ameliorate the worst effects of President Chirac's uncompromising veto?
  134. (Mr Ricketts) We had not come to the point where the votes were really to be counted and it was impossible to know until President Chirac spoke.

    Sir John Stanley

  135. Foreign Secretary, do you agree that UN sanctions again Iraq should be lifted forthwith? Could you tell us which members of the Security Council are obstructing the lifting of sanctions? What is the British Government endeavouring to do to overcome that obstruction?
  136. (Mr Straw) We are involved in detailed discussions at the moment with the United States and other Security Council partners - I am sorry but I am not going to go public about the nature of those discussions - we hope that those discussions can take place in a constructive atmosphere. Plainly the key reason for having sanctions, which was to put pressure on the Saddam regime, has now fallen away, so what we are talking about is a transitional situation. That then runs into the future of the Oil for Food Programme and title to Iraq's oil, these are the issues that we are currently discussing.

  137. Can you say whether the issue of the lifting of sanctions is being joined by members of the Security Council with the wider issue of the future role of the UN in Iraq?
  138. (Mr Straw) That is part of the discussion, Sir John, and I had some very constructive discussions about this with the five other members of the Security Council who happened to be in Athens, and Kofi Annan was present. I have continued those discussions in informal meetings I had with European foreign ministers, including Dominique de Villepin and Joschka Fischer, who I happened to see last week. There will be further discussions this Friday and Saturday in Greece at an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers. These discussions continue and meanwhile I am discussing them with my United States counterpart Colin Powell and with all the other particularly Permanent Members of the Security Council.

    Chairman: I would like to turn to the Middle East peace process.

    Mr Maples

  139. Foreign Secretary, we have discussed this issue before in the past and would you agree generally with the proposition that the difficulty is not in what the agreement is it is in getting the two sides or the three sides, if Syria is to be involved in this too, to implement it. What we are really going to need in this process is an awful lot of arm-twisting on the three parties if we include Syria?
  140. (Mr Straw) If you include?

  141. Syria, which is included in the Road Map on the website, I do not know if it is the right one but it has a ring of veracity about it.
  142. (Mr Straw) There is nothing particularly secret about the road map. As you know, Mr Maples, what it is is a distillation of a number of previous plans designed to produce progress by both or three sides leading to final status solution hopefully by 2005. How do you get there? There are a number of pre-conditions. I hope that instead of those pre-conditions, namely the approval of Abu Mazen's Cabinet will be through today or tomorrow - I am just checking on whether there has been any news whilst I am here giving evidence to the Select Committee - the road map can be delivered. How do we ensure that its steps are enforced? By a process of discussion, and, yes, if you like, pressure on different parties.

  143. Foreign Secretary, I would suggest to you that if Abu Mazen had been negotiating at Borak(?), Perez(?), Camp David and then at Taba that would have filled most of us with some optimism that the two peace parties would have been negotiating with each other, but they have each succeeded in destroying each others peace party and now we have a government in Israel as well as having a Palestinian administration. It seems to me that the arm-twisting that is going to be necessary to get them to do a deal - we all know pretty much what the deal is going to be - that is not just going to involve the United States twisting arms but it is also going to involve a lot of arm-twisting of Palestinians, and more particularly the Syrians, who even during the most optimistic parts of the Camp David process were not really talking to Israel. I would suggest to you it is going to involve the main Arab states, by which I mean Saudi Arabia and Egypt, putting really a very substantial amount of pressure on Syria and the new Palestinian Government. You said to me in the House yesterday you thought they would do this, what makes you think, from your discussions with them and from what you have seen, they are in fact wanting to do this, because they were not at Taba?
  144. (Mr Straw) They were not at Taba?

  145. Yes.
  146. (Mr Straw) I would not use the phrase "arm twisting", but I would use the phrase "active diplomatic intervention" by the United States.

  147. --- Very active.
  148. (Mr Straw) --- And other parties. Things have changed since Taba, for the worse mainly but also out of that the situation which has got worse there is a greater realisation that people both sides have to live in peace if they are going to live at all. What has got worse since then has been the violence which has followed the intifada with getting on now for 3,000 people on both sides who have been killed and many thousands more who have been injured. Also, there has been, as you say, a shift in the politics of both sides, a coarsening of the politics. What we in the international community have had to do is to try and shift things back again. The better news is that the road map has been agreed and was agreed by the four key partners of the Quartet. We have had these significant shifts in perception by leading members of the Palestinian Authority and, with luck, by the Palestinian Authority overall. I have to say in the two sets of meetings with representatives of the Palestinian Authority which I have been involved in this year, one which I chaired on 14 January and one which I attended again in London in mid-February, there has been a very positive atmosphere by the leaders of the Palestinians and an understanding that they have got to move. Prime Minister Sharon has made some helpful remarks recently about, for example, holding meetings with Abu Mazen and so on. Above all, what I know for certain is that, along with the British Prime Minister, President Bush is very personally committed to this process. It is for historians to judge how far we are all able to deliver on this. In terms of where we are now the commitment is strong.

  149. Can you tell me a bit more about the role you foresee, and the reasons you have for thinking they might, that Saudi Arabia and Egypt might play in this. You mentioned yesterday the role the Egyptian Security Minister or Intelligence Chief had played in getting Arafat to agree..
  150. (Mr Straw) Yes.

  151. Do you see the need for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and maybe other Arab leaders, to fulfil what they said at the summit last year which was in exchange for a Palestinian State they would have normal relations with Israel?
  152. (Mr Straw) I think amongst the leading Arab States there is a very clear understanding that the current situation between Israel and the Occupied Territories is terrible for the whole of the region and it helps to drag down the whole of the region. They want to see in exchange for a viable, separate, dignified state of Palestine the delivery of security to Israel, and that requires in turn that there is proper recognition by the Arab and Islamic states of the State of Israel and its right to exist. The two countries you mention have been playing a constructive role. As far as Syria is concerned, there is an important agenda with Syria. Syria is very influential on Hamas. Hamas were not constructive in the Cairo talks that took place earlier this year under the chairmanship of Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence. I hope very much, not least through recent experiences, that there is an acceptance by Syria that they have to act in a different way and to end support for terrorism and to recognise that now they have a more benign neighbour to their east they have opportunities themselves to act more responsibly.

  153. So you are pretty optimistic or reasonably optimistic about the role that Egypt and Saudi Arabia might play. Can I ask you one more question about Syria because during the whole of the Oslo process and Camp David process the Israeli negotiators, whom I have met and spoken to, said that while the issues with the Palestinians were extremely complicated, they were now living with each other since the Oslo process started whereas issues with Syria were relatively simple - they were not even talking to each other, and you are saying that even as recently as last year this was so. It seems from the draft of the road map that we have all seen that peace with Syria is an integral part of this and also to Lebanon and Syria as well. I wonder what makes you say you think Syria has realised that it needs ---
  154. (Mr Straw) I hope so.

  155. I wonder if you could go a bit further. Are there things that make you think that they are willing to be a part of this? Because I can see how between Saudi Arabia and Egypt and particularly the United States, to use my phrase, you could twist the arms of the Palestinian and Israeli governments to reach an agreement, I am just wondering if that is going to work with Syria? Is it vital that that component is in place as well or could you have a deal between Israel and the Palestinians and leave Syria to a later stage?
  156. (Mr Ricketts) I think they have got to be part of an overall agreement. You could approach it in different phases but there will not be a complete peace until Syria is part of the peace as well.

  157. Do you think they realise this and are they willing to ---
  158. (Mr Straw) I think they are coming to that realisation is the answer. There has always been a Syrian track of the peace process and I think they recognise that.

  159. But it has never really gone anywhere, has it, whereas the Palestinian track from time to time has achieved quite a lot?
  160. (Mr Straw) If you are going to have a secure State of Israel and a state of Palestine you have to have a normalisation of Syria and Syria with Israel.

    John Maples: I suggest to you arm twisting is going to be involved even if you want to call it something else.

    Mr Hamilton

  161. Foreign Secretary, on 4 March last when I put to you my fears about the impending war in Iraq and the possibility of Saddam firing weapons into Israel you were quite dismissive of that happening, and thank goodness you were right. Now we have got rid of the Saddam regime there is a clear opportunity and a path to peace and we have got the road map which we hope will bring us to that peace in two years' time but of course, as we were told in the United States when we visited two or three weeks ago, the road map is not a document for negotiation, it is not a treaty; it is a plan for action and achievement of peace and security in the region. The problem then is if it is a plan that the United States and Quartet have agreed then it is not open to negotiation. We were told however by Dan Gillerman, the United Nations Ambassador from Israel, that there are certain things which they are not happy about within that road map. How are we going to get over that problem that certainly Israel - and maybe even the Palestinians but I think they have been much clearer they would support the road map - has certain criticisms of that road map and would want to amend it before they even agreed to go down the road.
  162. (Mr Straw) You get over these things by a process of discussion. Of course Israel is entitled to comment on the road map, as other parties are entitled to do, and they have a profound interest in it and the processes which could lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. However, you are right to say it is a document from the Quartet, it is not a document from the two key parties. If you are asking me am I confident that if and when we get to the final status for Israel and Palestine it will be exactly on the steps set out in the road map? No, I doubt it. Will it require those steps to be made as part of the process? Yes.

    Mr Illsley

  163. Two very quick questions, Foreign Secretary. The first one bearing in mind that UNMOVIC were not designed to be detectives but could not find weapons of mass destruction in the face of non-co-operation, and bearing in mind that we are now in control of the country and we are still having difficulty finding any weapons of mass destruction, is there an argument to say now that the use of weapons inspectors is a failed method of policing proliferation? Is there an argument to say that now and in the future we are looking at regime change as a first option rather than inspectors and then regime change?
  164. (Mr Straw) No, I do not think that at all. I think inspectors have an important role to play but it is by no means an exclusive role. You need other tools. Inspectors can play a really important role where you have got consent by the governments concerned as, for example, you had most famously in South Africa, or alternatively a wide range of regimes to which we are party and other countries are party having inspection regimes is an important way of ensuring that there is compliance or establishing non-compliance. So it is an important part, to use the current phrase, of the toolbox but not the only one.

  165. Finally, given the time restrains, Condoleezza Rice has said that France has got to be punished for its role in UN negotiations. Colin Powell has also said that France will have serious measures taken against it. Do we subscribe to that or do we think the United States being a little bit too forthright in that situation?
  166. (Mr Straw) With respect, I have seen these stories but I do not recall having seen direct quotations from either Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell to that effect, but do not let me argue with you. We want constructive relations with our partners in France and part of the way we achieve those is by overcoming some of the difficulties which have been there in terms of a difference of perspectives which has arisen in the last nine months.

    Chairman

  167. Foreign Secretary, we will negotiate about our five minutes at the highest level afterwards. May I thank you and your colleagues. The debate will continue.

(Mr Straw) Thank you very much.