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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, before the noble Baroness leaves that point, I hope I may ask her one other question. Does she know whether there are any non-governmental organisations or others observing that trial in view of the fact that a new group of people was substituted for those first apprehended with quite different charges being brought for the same crime? That seems, to say the least, a little troubling.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not know what NGO access there is to the trial. As I am sure the noble Baroness will appreciate, NGO access to trials is often a difficult issue. However, I shall make inquiries among officials and write to the noble Baroness on that specific point.

I turn to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on the attack on Al-Shifa. The Americans told us at the time that they had compelling evidence proving that the plant was involved in the production of chemical weapons. They said that they had physical evidence of key chemical weapons precursors. We believed that the United States would not have taken the action it did unless it had evidence that it believed was compelling. I am sure the noble Lord does not expect me to go into the details of intergovernment communications and intelligence reports. As the noble Lord is aware, no governments ever do that. But that is what we believed to be the case at the time.

We have raised these issues of the use and manufacture of chemical weapons with the Sudanese Government in the past. Her Majesty's Government strongly believe that the solution is to encourage the Sudan to become a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Given that, we could circumvent the endless cycle of allegations and denials as to whether weapons of mass destruction are being made in the Sudan, because a proper verification regime would be put in place.

In that connection, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, the United States is a key component in making significant progress in the Sudan. We work closely with the United States in all our initiatives. It, too, believes that the solution to this issue is a peace process that actually works. We are keeping our lines open to the opposition. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked specifically what we are doing in that regard. My right honourable friend the Minister of State has met

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the former Prime Minister. We respect the integrity of governments abroad. We have been through these issues before in relation to other countries, but we keep our lines open in a way that I hope the noble Baroness finds helpful.

The noble Viscount, Lord Torrington, raised the issue of Sudan's neighbours. We are aware of reports of involvement of the Sudan with neighbour states, and vice versa. Again, we return to the central point that a resolution of the civil war would facilitate peace in the region as a whole, and that is the key to the Government's policy.

I therefore hope that our objectives are clear to your Lordships: an end to starvation and suffering in the Sudan and hence an end to the fighting. At the same time as continuing to press for improvements in the way relief is delivered, we shall pursue the peace agenda

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with the IGAD and with international partners. We shall also maintain a dialogue with all parties, including pressing them to respect human rights. I recognise that we shall be in a better position to pursue these objectives when we have British staff back in Khartoum. I assure the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, that we are working towards that end. We are looking to the future and the benefits of dialogue.

To answer the final specific point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, I suspect that I have been rather more upbeat this evening in giving the Government's assessment of what is happening. I do not apologise for that. Her Majesty's Government believe that we have given peace in the Sudan a new priority in our thinking, efforts and policies, and we shall continue to do so.

        House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before eleven o'clock.

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