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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his kind words. I agree with him that the position which Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States have now adopted does not leave any room for doubt. If there is not compliance, there will be no further warnings. It is crucial that the UNSCOM inspectors have access where and when they wish. Those are two very important points.
My noble friend asks about reaching the hearts and minds of our friends in the Middle East and perhaps most particularly in the Gulf and Iraq itself. I remind my noble friend that the declaration of the eight Arab states in Damascus on 12th November was that Ministers held Iraq responsible for any consequences that might spring from Iraq's refusal to rescind its decision to halt co-operation with UNSCOM. That statement was made by the following states: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria. We have not seen such a statement before. I believe that that should give noble Lords considerable food for thought.
In many ways we have already started to secure greater support in the hearts and minds of people. My noble friend asks whether it is possible to do this within Iraq. I believe that that would be extremely difficult. Over the past weekend the people of Baghdad have been out in the streets celebrating Saddam Hussein's victory. The people of Iraq may not necessarily have the freedom of action that we enjoy in this country. If they are urged to go out by the great numbers of guards--the Statement points out that there are 1 million men under arms in Iraq--I do not believe that many people will say that they prefer to stay at home rather than demonstrate support for Saddam Hussein. To hope that the people of Iraq will respond in that way is a pretty tall order. Let us remember what is taking place in the prisons in Iraq, the forced amputations that have been introduced this year and the hideous and repressive regime under which most Iraqis live. I believe that we may be up against it (to use that colloquialism) in trying to get to the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people in a visible way.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, it is generally agreed that our mistake at the end of the Gulf War was not to require Saddam Hussein himself to give the surrender. Given Mr. Primakov's extremely close relations over many years with Saddam Hussein, is there any hope that we can bring pressure to bear on the Russians to insist that this latest acceptance by the Iraqis of the requirements of the United Nations should be stated publicly by Saddam Hussein? The Russians have great influence in that country. I believe that we are wasting that asset. Obviously, there are ways that we cannot discuss publicly to bring pressure to bear on the Russians, but it seems to me that this is a perfectly open question. If they want to have peace in the Middle East and a better outcome in Iraq, Saddam Hussein himself must be made to say publicly that he has capitulated.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be excellent if we could obtain an unequivocal statement from Saddam Hussein. I do not believe that it escaped the attention of anyone that the agreement reached with Kofi Annan earlier this year was fronted by Tariq Aziz. At the time one or two noble Lords remarked to me privately that they felt that it would have been far more satisfactory had Saddam Hussein taken the full brunt of those negotiations. But I do not believe that that was an accident, any more than I believe it is an accident that the signatories to the letters received over the weekend are not those of Saddam Hussein.
The fact is that Saddam Hussein is guarded by the Republican Guard and his position in Iraq at the moment probably does not allow pressure to be brought to bear upon him. I note what the noble Baroness said about the position of the Russians. I am sure that those matters will be discussed this week in the UN and elsewhere. Whatever the differences over the use of force have been, on one matter the United Nations Security Council has been absolutely united; namely, that
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, while we are waiting to see how Saddam responds and our Armed Forces and those of the Americans remain on high alert, can the Minister advise the House as to whether any other nations are prepared to support militarily the present actions that we and the United States have taken? Bearing in mind that there is no intention to give any further warning, what advice is the Foreign Office giving to British nationals about returning to Baghdad?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that the question of support by other nations is likely to be under active consideration at the moment, although I am sure that discussions will continue with our allies in a number of friendly countries. We have received a number of messages of support from the eight Arab states, New Zealand, Australia and the EU. A number of states have been supportive of the general position of Her Majesty's Government. I am sure that discussions about the most effective way to mobilise that support will continue.
The noble and gallant Lord asked about travel advice. We advised against non-essential travel to Kuwait, Israel and the occupied territories on 11th November. We have been reconsidering that advice. Our advice against travel to Iraq stands. We now no longer necessarily advise nationals against travel to Kuwait, Israel and the occupied territories, but we suggest that all Britons should register with the nearest British embassy and keep in touch with regional developments. Therefore, the travel advice to Kuwait, Israel and the occupied territories has been stepped down, although we advise vigilance and continued contact with the embassies, but advice against travel to Iraq stands. I hope that that is clear to noble Lords.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, my noble friend has spoken of the need now to bolt down this matter. That is a very vivid and valid image. I think that all can agree that that is the need. Will the noble Baroness and the Government bear in mind that the best bolts are those of the United Nations because people do not like to try to break them, at least not visibly? Further, is there anything to be said yet about the ways in which the United States, and presumably the United Kingdom, will seek to get rid of Saddam? In a case of this kind it is obvious that anything that is ill-considered, heavy-handed, secretive, violent or illegal would have a counter-productive effect.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that there are good bolts in the United Nations, but I must point out to my noble friend that one of the best bolts that we have had is the credible use of military power. I do not believe that that can be gainsaid in any way. It was when Saddam Hussein believed rightly that the United States and the United Kingdom were prepared to make good their threat of military action that
The noble Lord asked about overthrowing Saddam Hussein. I ask your Lordships to believe me when I say that that is not our objective. I am not suggesting for a moment that tears would be shed if he were toppled from power, but it is a question of whom the Iraqis themselves want to be their leader. So our priority is to ensure that as long as Saddam Hussein stays in power he cannot keep his capacity for weapons of mass destruction with which he has been threatening regional peace and security. I told the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that we shall stay in touch with the United States as it develops the ideas put forward by President Clinton in his statement of 15th November concerning the opposition. I stress to your Lordships that ultimately the leadership of Iraq is a matter for the Iraqis themselves.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister three short points. Was The Times of last Friday correct in saying that the Government had distributed briefing material to Members of the House of Commons on the then situation and, if so, why was it not distributed to Members of this House? Secondly, are the Government confident that the other three members of the Security Council, France, Russia and China, are in agreement that, if necessary, there should be military action without further warning? Thirdly, can the Minister really believe that the leadership of Iraq is for the Iraqi people when they clearly have no means whatsoever of getting rid of Saddam Hussein?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. Briefing material was circulated in the House of Commons on Friday. My noble friend Lord Gilbert was in touch with my office. We hope to circulate some briefing material very shortly to your Lordships. I hope that that will meet the need that the noble Lord has pointed out. As regards the position of France, Russia and China, they all agreed with the UNSCR 1205 concerning the flagrant breach committed by Saddam Hussein. In relation to the legal basis of any action that might have taken place, I was able to tell your Lordships when we last discussed this matter that Her Majesty's Government would not act unlawfully. We were absolutely confident that we would have been acting lawfully had the air strike planned for the weekend gone ahead.
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