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Channel Tunnel Rail Link: Design Standard

Lord Crook asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The consortia tendering for the project are required to comply with design standards which could accommodate standard continental rolling stock sizes. We have made it clear, however, that we will not allow the carriage of large-gauge freight on the rail link unless suitable onward routes are in place.

Alleged Gulf War Syndrome and French Servicemen

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): My department has liaised with the French authorities throughout our investigation of the alleged Gulf War Syndrome. The French authorities confirm that there have been no reported cases of unexplained illness such as the alleged syndrome among French servicemen who served in the Gulf and that their personnel were not issued with Nerve Agent Pretreatment set tablets before or during the conflict.

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Alleged Gulf War Syndrome: Liaison with US

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will add the cases of British servicemen and women who are suffering from illnesses of unknown origin following the Gulf War to the investigation being carried out by the American Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Earl Howe: My department has maintained a close liaison with the US authorities throughout our investigation of the alleged Gulf War Syndrome. We have passed on full details of the findings of our medical assessment programme of British Gulf veterans. We intend to continue our part in this liaison and will consider what further co-operation might be of mutual benefit.

Commonwealth Development Corporation: New Approvals

Viscount Davidson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) has been authorised to operate in additional countries.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Following a request from the corporation, approval has been given for the CDC to operate in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Cuba. In accordance with the strategic targets set out in the quinquennial review, CDC will aim to give priority to projects in the private sector.

Sierra Leone: Military Assistance

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What military assistance, training or advice has been given to Sierra Leone in each of the years from 1991 to 1995, and whether they will suggest to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Committee of Ministers that consideration be given to the application of the Statement of Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers of November 1993 to the sale of arms to Sierra Leone, and in particular to paragraph 2(b) (iv) which calls on participating states to avoid transfers which are likely to prolong or aggravate an existing armed conflict.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have provided occasional training in the region and in the UK for Sierra Leonean army officers during the period in question. The details of such assistance are confidential between governments. The Statement of Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers was agreed in November 1993. It is unnecessary to reaffirm this at Council of Ministers level.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they changed their policy of offering the Sierra Leone Government a military adviser for six

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    months from April 1995, a procurement expert to study defence purchase problems and a short-term training team for senior officers; and what military aid or training is being provided or has been offered to Sierra Leone instead.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Details of military assistance are confidential between governments. We are however giving no military assistance in Sierra Leone at present.

Palestinians Detained by Israel

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest information concerning the number of (a) Palestinians from the occupied territories detained by the Israeli authorities, with or without convictions for an offence; and (b) those detained by the South Lebanon Army in the fortress of Khiam; and whether the International Committee of the Red Cross has secured access to them.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Latest figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross indicate that around 5,900 Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are detained by Israel. About 5,000 have been arrested for security reasons; the rest are considered "common law" prisoners. The ICRC believe that there are some 200 persons detained in Khiam. ICRC delegates have not been authorised to carry out visits to the detainees in Khiam, but since January 1995 the ICRC has been allowed to organise family visits to these detainees.

Croatia: Military Operation

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Government of Croatia has complied in full with all United Nations resolutions dealing with the conflict in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia and, if not, in what respect they have still to comply.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government of Croatia maintains forces in the zones of separation, established under Security Council Resolution (SCR) 769, in contravention of SCR 994, which called for all parties to withdraw from those areas. The Croatian government's military operation in the UN protected Area West in early May this year ignored the Security Council's call for the parties to refrain from the use of force (eg in SCR 981) and was condemned in the Security Council's statement of 1 May.

Croatian troops also remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina contrary to SCR 752.

Foreign Affairs Council

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the recent meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Council opened with a general debate on the Presidency's programme for their term of office. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made a statement, the text of which is available in the Libraries of both Houses.

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The A points listed in document 8853/95 (which will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses as soon as it is available) were adopted unanimously. The Council took note of the European Parliament resolutions in documents 8507/95 (PE-RE 49) and 8160/95 (PE-RE 45). Copies of these documents will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses as soon as they are received. Members of the Council acting as an inter-governmental conference reappointed six judges and replaced one judge on the court of first instance.

The EU/Tunisia Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement and the EC/Vietnam Cooperation agreement were signed in the margins of the Council. The proposed EU/Croatia Trade and Co-operation Agreement was referred to COREPER for further work. On Bosnia, future aid requirements were discussed, and Council conclusions agreed. The EC/Russia Interim Agreement was signed in the margins of the Council.

Second meetings of Association Councils with Hungary and Poland took place. Discussion in both focused on the pre-accession process. Agreement was reached on terms for concluding the negotiations with Israel for a new agreement with the EU. The Commission gave a brief progress report on the negotiations for new agreements with Morocco and Egypt.

The Council confirmed the appointment of Mr. Carl Lidbom, a former Swedish Minister, as head of the EU Electoral Unit for the Palestinian elections. The Commission presented a communication on the future of EU/Cuba relations, which was remitted to COREPER for further work. The Presidency reported on an informal trilogue that had taken place on 12 July between themselves, the Commission, and the European Parliament. The Council agreed that the Presidency should acknowledge the requests for accession by Romania and Slovakia.

The Council reached agreement in principle on a proposal to provide food aid to certain Republics of the Former Soviet Union. The Commission reported that it was working on a communication on EU/US relations, to be delivered at the October Council. The Council agreed conclusions on export credits which envisage a substantive debate at the October Council. Agreement was reached in principle on the EURATOM/US agreement on nuclear trade.

Finally, the Council agreed unanimously that the Commission should pursue an interim agreement in the WTO financial services negotiations.

A copy of the Council conclusions will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses as soon as they are received by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


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