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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for their support on this issue. Perhaps I may reiterate on behalf of my right honourable friend that all options are being kept open. On the one hand, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, seemed to imply that we were moving quickly towards military action; on the other, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, needed a little reassurance that military action had not been ruled out. There is a diplomatic path which is presently being pursued. But I repeat what my right honourable friend has said; namely, that no options are closed off. All options are therefore open, including the military one. But it is right and proper to pursue the diplomatic paths properly first.

I agree wholeheartedly with the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that Saddam Hussein is picking a fight with the Security Council of the United Nations. He has in effect broken his solemn word given to Kofi Annan earlier this year.

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Our current efforts in the Security Council are aimed at sending a firm message to Saddam Hussein that he will not achieve his aim of securing the lifting of sanctions by defying the Security Council--by defying in effect the will of the international community. That is what we are presently working towards in the wording that is being discussed in the Security Council. We are looking for the path of effective diplomacy. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that the Government are fully resolved on this issue. We are of course taking one step at a time in that diplomatic effort.

Both noble Lords raised the question of military capability in that part of the world. The fire power that Her Majesty's Government have is the same fire power that we had earlier this year. Different parts have been moved in and out, but the capability remains the same as it was earlier this year. If it comes to military action--and I am sure that all your Lordships hope that that will not be the case--there will be clear strategic objectives and all the options will be discussed.

I was asked particularly about the Gulf states. On 27th October Foreign Ministers of the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council member states issued a joint communique supporting the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions. It is clear that, like us, the Middle East governments would prefer a diplomatic solution, but they are aware of Saddam's record and the threat that he poses. They insist that he must comply with the Security Council resolutions and that he will be responsible if he fails to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, raised the question of Mr. Scott Ritter's resignation. We all share Mr. Ritter's frustration with the years of Iraqi attempts to thwart UNSCOM and in particular with Iraq's latest decision to restrict still further its already limited co-operation. But Security Council support for UNSCOM remains firm. It is not for us to judge Mr. Ritter's decision to resign, but we regret the loss of a dedicated and experienced member of UNSCOM.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right that there is still work for UNSCOM to do. The October report of UNSCOM made clear that there was still work to do on chemical weapons, ballistic weapons and especially biological weapons. The latest six-monthly IAEA report in October indicated its assessment that all outstanding questions should continue to be addressed under the ongoing monitoring and verification process.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, raised the question of Mr. Kofi Annan's involvement. The Security Council is at the moment discussing the resolution. The Secretary General will be kept fully abreast, no doubt on an almost hourly basis, of how the discussions are continuing.

Her Majesty's Government have been at the forefront of trying to ensure that humanitarian aid gets to where it is needed in Iraq. We have done everything we can with regard to the oil-for-food provisions. While those provisions have been increased to some 10 billion dollars, food and medicines were in any case exempt from sanctions. I would regret it enormously if children were suffering in any part of Iraq, but the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, must put the blame where it belongs, fully and squarely at the doorstep of Saddam Hussein.

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5.34 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, we are in a pickle, are we not? I suspect that Saddam Hussein will run true to form and behave as he has in the past. We shall then get very cross and he will be bombed. Because he is bombed, he will not allow any monitors in the country. The terrible dilemma is that we should never dare to use the ultimate amount of force which would be necessary, which is to put infantrymen on the bridges in Baghdad. That would be the only way to take control. You can bomb until you are blue in the face, but it will be no use except in support of forces on the ground, when it would be sensible. I do not say this to embarrass anyone. When we consider the force option we should think about what would happen if we bombed Saddam and he ignored it and carried on behaving as he had before. A few factories would have been bombed and the RAF would have had a lovely time practising bombing. That is the danger which we face.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that the RAF would at all enjoy such a dreadful task, if it came to it. The position is extremely grave, but I stress that this is not a time to project forward to what may or may not happen on a military basis, particularly in an open debate in your Lordships' House. Diplomacy is now taking its course in the appropriate forum, which is the United Nations Security Council. I have made clear that all options remain open and that those options include the military option. It is the responsibility of all of us to consider the strategic points put forward by the noble Earl.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, the government Statement this time has achieved a new level of irenic tone in that it seems to be hoping for international law to prevail without violence. On many earlier occasions a hankering after a final solution by force of arms has been detectable. The Government are to be congratulated on having used their chairmanship of the Security Council to achieve such a just, equitable and law-abiding approach to this new crisis. Can the Government now take one step further forward and say that force will not be used without a new United Nations Security Council resolution? If such a resolution is available, the use of force would undoubtedly be legal; if it is not available, the use of force in such circumstances would not be undoubtedly legal.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, throughout this whole unhappy saga the Government have always hoped for a non-violent solution to this problem. The Government hope today for a non-violent solution to this problem. In that respect the position of Her Majesty's Government has remained consistent throughout. I can assure my noble friend Lord Kennet that Her Majesty's Government will not act unlawfully.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, is the Minister perhaps understating her enthusiasm for what she described as positive improvements in access to food and medicines? Is it not the case that there was a serious interruption of aid from humanitarian agencies in June

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and July and that the Iraqi Foreign Ministry then allowed goods into the country? If there has been some change of heart by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, does she see any sinister motives in that?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it is not for me to look into the mind of Saddam Hussein for sinister motives. He has a consistent record of preferring to exploit the suffering of his own people rather than of allowing the international community to help the people of Iraq. I repeated what my right honourable friend said in another place. It is the United Nations that has confirmed that, as a result of the changes made in the oil-for-food arrangements, there have been positive improvements in access to food and medicine in Iraq. That is a report of the United Nations, not of Her Majesty's Government. We must all hope that it is true. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, pointed out, there may be parts of Iraq to which the benefits of the aid are not getting through. I am afraid that that would be entirely consistent with what we have seen of the way in which Saddam Hussein has behaved in the past. There are parts of Iraq which clearly do not have access in the way that more favoured areas do.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, while expressing my support for the Government's present attitude, does the Minister agree that we cannot discuss this situation either in terms of the activities of the Iraqi government in producing weapons of mass destruction, or in terms of the provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq--which all of us must wish to see--without recognising the cardinal fact that the Saddam Hussein regime is not a government as understood in international law? It is a group of people who have seized power, who maintain it by ruthless elimination of all elements of opposition, actual or even potential, and upon whose word nothing can be placed.

We are not dealing with a country which may commit aggression against or threaten a neighbour; we are dealing with something which is beyond that kind of consideration. One can only sympathise with Her Majesty's Government and the other members of the United Nations who have to try, through the admitted procedures, to frame their position while always recollecting the truth of the situation: that as long as this regime persists the danger to the international community and the sufferings of the Iraqi people will continue.

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