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Lord McNair rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reconsider their support for the American cruise missile attack on the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in the light of subsequent scientific and technical reports on the matter.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is now absolutely clear that the American cruise missile attack on the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, was a disastrous misjudgment. As the House will be aware, Professor Thomas Tullius, Chairman of Boston University's Department of Chemistry, conducted detailed tests on the remains of the Al Shifa factory. The analysis, carried out in three accredited European laboratories, did not uncover a shred of evidence to support American claims that the Al Shifa factory was involved in the manufacture of chemical weapons.
Everyone, except for a few who cannot afford to face the truth, now accepts that Al Shifa was a factory producing a range of medicines. Even the American Defence Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's own intelligence service, has admitted that the attack was a serious error of judgment. The attack was a foreign policy disaster which set the Islamic world against the United States and, by association, the United Kingdom. It was also a catastrophe for the Sudanese people because a factory that produced two-thirds of Sudan's medicines at an affordable price was destroyed and has not been replaced.
President Clinton attacked and destroyed the Al Shifa medicines factory on the false assumption that it was owned by Osama bin-Laden. Osama bin-Laden is the conduit through whom the Americans poured millions of dollars in military assistance, equipment and training to the mujaheddin in order to remove the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. Not for the first time, such a person bit the hand that fed him. He turned against the Americans and is now the sworn enemy of the United States. The Taliban now rule Afghanistan as a direct result of American policies.
The Prime Minister's hasty and unwise support for President Clinton's attempt to divert media attention from his domestic affairs damaged Britain's standing abroad no less than the bombing damaged America's. The most important lesson from Al Shifa is the danger of labelling countries as state sponsors of terrorism on the basis of political rather than factual logic.
So how did this occur? I suggest that the American Administration's foreign policy establishment began to believe its own propaganda and also the erroneous information that it had been given by people who are in opposition to the present government in the Sudan. Naturally, it is one of the ways that people in opposition can press their point.
These allegations of passive support" for international terrorism by Sudan apparently consisted of turning a blind eye and allowing members of several Islamic groupings to reside in Khartoum. On that basis the UK should have been so listed long ago. Not only do the British authorities allow thousands of foreign extremists" to live in and agitate from London--many are in receipt of state benefits--but the Governments of Algeria, France, Egypt, Israel and
We should remember that it was Sudan that extradited Carlos the Jackal to France and, at the request of the American Government, expelled Osama bin-Laden in 1995, while at the same time prophetically warning that in doing so it would be difficult for the Sudanese and Americans to keep tabs on him. One year later bin-Laden began his attacks on American personnel.
There have been many allegations that within the borders of Sudan there are terrorist training camps. The question to be asked is: if these terrorist training camps exist why were the Tomahawk missiles not aimed at these as they were in Afghanistan? Why else would the Americans attack the Al Shifa factory in the suburbs of Khartoum, where, if the allegations were correct, tens of thousands of people might have died or been crippled permanently, rather than the terrorist training camps?
The American Government quickly realised that the factory had no connection with bin-Laden. They were candid enough to admit that for one whole week after the attack on Al Shifa they did not know who was the owner of the factory. The world's press quickly ascertained that the factory was owned by Mr Salah Idris, a Saudi Arabian businessman of Sudanese origin. The Clinton Administration were unwilling to admit that they had made a mistake in associating the ownership of the factory with Osama bin-Laden. President Clinton then hurriedly invoked American anti-terrorist legislation, listed Mr Idris as a terrorist and froze 24 million dollars of his assets in accounts with the Bank of America. Washington also banned him from entering the United States. Fortunately for Mr Idris, he had the resources to challenge this listing in a federal court in the United States. In May of this year eight months after the freezing of his assets, the United States Government chose not to defend the action and released his funds. Most American newspapers saw this as an admission of error on the part of the Government.
The Minister may recall that some months before this court case I asked whether Her Majesty's Government had at any stage decided to regard Mr Idris as a terrorist or supporter of terrorism and, therefore, whether he would be excluded from the United Kingdom, mirroring the American measures. The answer was no. If the Government of the United Kingdom were so convinced by the American case in respect of the use and purpose of the factory why did they not follow the American line in respect of Mr Idris?
One of the unexpected by-products of the American attack on the Al Shifa medicines factory was a surge of in-depth investigative journalism into the issue of Sudan and terrorism by American newspapers and periodicals such as the New York Times and New Yorker. On 21st September 1998 the New York Times called into question the US State Department's claims
The bombing of the American embassies in east Africa occurred several days before the attack on the Al Shifa medicines factory. It is a matter of record that the Government of the Sudan were among the first to condemn the terrorist bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, and Khartoum granted unlimited and unconditional overflight permission for American aeroplanes to evacuate those injured by the explosions. The day after the embassy bombings two men entered the Sudan travelling on forged Pakistani passports. They attempted to rent a flat overlooking the American Embassy in Khartoum. At this point the Sudanese authorities arrested them, notified the US State Department that they were in custody and offered to hand them over to the US justice system.
According to recent American media reports, the US Government, for reasons best known to themselves, preferred to ignore the possibility that the Sudanese had apprehended two of the embassy bombers, and a few days later Tomahawk missiles destroyed the Al Shifa factory. Sudanese government officials, despairing of American co-operation, deported the two suspects to Pakistan where they promptly disappeared. In August of this year the American media reported that the Clinton Administration's decision not to take into custody two possible bombers of the American embassies was being investigated by committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Since, yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to allegations by Norwegian Peoples Aid, which I regard as a thoroughly discredited organisation, that the Government of Sudan used chemical weapons in a bombing raid on 23rd July and since the Minister seems to be unaware that, according to the Guardian of Friday 6th August,
The Lord Bishop of Bradford: My Lords, your Lordships' House has considered the subject of Sudan a number of times over the past few years, and I believe that is right. It is a vast country with vast problems and suffering and is easily forgotten. Therefore, I welcome
The life of Sudan is daily one of claims of atrocity and counter-claims, with blame going to and fro. I believe that for two significant reasons the time has now come to move forward and not rake over the past. First, as the Minister told us yesterday, in September the Foreign Secretary and Dr Mustapha Osman Ismail, Sudan's Minister for External Affairs, met. As a result, full diplomatic relations are to be restored. I believe that that gives Her Majesty's Government a real opening to stress again the need for peace in Sudan and to work for peace with justice.
Every time I go to Sudan and meet Sudanese who live in Uganda and Kenya they do not pray for victory in a military sense but for peace so that their lives may be restored. With the exchange of ambassadors I hope that the Minister will assure us that every effort will be made to support the IGAD process and to take any other measures which are open to Her Majesty's Government to promote peace in Sudan.
The second reason is the development of the oil industry in Sudan which could be a blessing or curse. Fighting goes on. There have been explosions at Atbara and Kasala and stories that the government are to buy 50 tanks with part of the oil revenue. The increase in oil revenue provides an incredible opportunity for the Government of Sudan, encouraged and supported by Her Majesty's Government, to address homelessness, hunger, poverty, disease and the needs of education in their own country and to receive international approval for doing just that. It is essential that there are people in a position to encourage the Government of Sudan not to spend the money on weapons but in that other way. People who know the country well tell us that it is most unlikely that a military victory would ever be possible. If the revenue is spent and if those in the rebel parties continue the war ad infinitum, it will not lead to victory but to increased suffering for ordinary, innocent people who have suffered far too much already.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government, with these new links, and based upon the development of the oil revenue, will exercise a diplomatic and sensitive and supportive role in inviting the Government of Sudan and the dissidents to talk seriously, as a matter of integrity, so that the country may find peace.
In this process I believe that Christians and Muslims have a significant role to play. I resist the idea that this is in every respect a conflict between the two great faiths. There are many devout Christians in Sudan and many devout Muslims. Dr Mustapha Osman Ismail, who I know personally, is one such. Here is an opportunity for people of these two great historic religions to prove that religion can heal and reconcile and not just divide and persecute. It will not be easy because there is deep bitterness and suffering, but already modest but significant steps are taking place.
In the Christian context the recent agreement at Wunlit between the Nuer and the Dinka, who have a history of violence, hatred and killing, is one more building block in this new building of peace in Sudan.
If the Minister was in any way responsible for this, I thank her warmly, but yesterday at Question Time I drew her attention to the intention of the Government of Sudan to evict the Episcopal Church at Omburman from its headquarters, and today I received a message relayed by the Sudanese Embassy from Dr Mustapha Osman Ismail saying that this will not happen.
These are small things, straws in the wind, but I would argue that the time has now come to take those straws and to build for peace. Active and sustained involvement by Her Majesty's Government is greatly to be desired. I can assure the Minister that the churches, and I believe devout Muslims, will play their part.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I regret that I must follow the right reverend Prelate's contribution, which was so optimistic, with a more disturbing analysis. Given the Question before us, I will focus on three issues: first, the bombing of the Al Shifa factory; secondly, reports of the import and manufacture of chemical weapons by the National Islamic Front (NIF) regime--I cannot call it the government because it forcibly replaced the elected government and has no legitimacy--and, thirdly, continuing violations of the ceasefire by the NIF, including allegations of the use of chemical weapons.
The Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory is inherently capable of manufacturing chemicals which can be used for chemical weapons. Usage of facilities can be changed overnight. As far as I know, there has been no investigation by the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare. However, there are convincing reports that there are other facilities in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan which are used for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. At least one of those is in a residential area and, if that had been bombed, there would have been many civilian casualties.
For further evidence, I refer to the film shown on Channel 5 in October 1998 called Exporting Evil--Saddam's Hidden Weapons which gives chilling accounts of the export of weapons of mass destruction and the personnel and means for manufacturing them from Iraq to Sudan. Among those giving evidence is a senior UNSCOM inspector, whose testimony cannot be lightly dismissed. Obviously, the NIF regime's supporters did not like that film and complained to the ITC. The film's producer, Damien Lewis, answered all the criticisms. The complaint was dismissed; the report stands, and the claims that Sudan is making chemical weapons must be taken seriously.
Even more serious are the reports that the NIF has used chemical weapons against its own people. During recent visits to different parts of Sudan, I have been given repeated accounts of the use of unconventional munitions by NIF forces in southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains. Descriptions of the shells and of the aftermath are always consistent: the shells emit smoky gas which cause symptoms of eye and skin irritation, followed by intense vomiting and bleeding. Some victims die, others survive. Experts claim that the symptoms are entirely compatible with poisoning by arsenical compounds such as Lewisite. Water in some craters is a deep crimson viscous fluid, unlike any liquid seen in conventional high explosive craters. I am placing a photograph in the Library. Vegetation subsequently changes colour and atrophies.
Then, on 21st, 22nd and 23rd July, the NIF dropped 16 bombs in Lianya in southern Sudan. Descriptions of the after-effects are identical to those of the other incidents. But on this occasion UN relief workers were hospitalised and local people suffered. The United Nations sent in an investigative team, including a Canadian chemical weapons expert. Surprisingly, it was recalled just before arriving on location. There are also reports of an as yet unidentified team who arrived at the site very shortly after the bombings, and who effected what appears to have been such a thorough clean-up job that by the time subsequent investigators arrived there was not a single metal fragment to be found.
This abandonment of any full and publicly accountable investigation has left local people terrified and aid organisations deeply concerned. Equally worrying is the message to the NIF; that it can use these unconventional weapons with impunity.
However, we have facilitated an independent investigation. Samples have been collected and we are presently seeking full co-operation of the government in analysing one set of these samples. Others are being analysed elsewhere.
There is enough evidence to demonstrate that the NIF's record of brutality is as savage as any in the world today. As recently as 1st June I was in the oil-rich areas of western Upper Nile and witnessed the attempted ethnic cleansing of the local civilians to clear the land for oil exploitation. NIF Antonov bombers and helicopter gunships had bombed and terrorised them; then massive forces had swept through the region, killing scores of people, destroying 6,000 homes, seven churches, three clinics, and burning all the crops. We have the evidence in photographic and video form.
Therefore, in response to the noble Lord's Question, I hope that the Government will not in any way disassociate themselves from the United States' robust response to the murder of hundreds of people in the bombings of its embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam. It is generally acknowledged that Sudan was implicated in those bombings, and the noble Lord, Lord McNair, seems strangely unconcerned about the victims of those bombings. Furthermore, his concern
Therefore, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not in any way lessen their pressure on the NIF to desist from massacres or ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of civilians from their lands in Bahr-el-Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, the Moslem Beja territories of eastern Sudan and the oilfields in western Upper Nile.
The bombing of the Al Shifa factory was a response to the bombings of the United States' embassies with all the attendant death and suffering caused by those bombings. But it is not only the bombing of those embassies which needs to be taken into account. It is well known that Sudan harbours and trains international terrorists who are responsible for such acts of violence. Many are now involved in fighting in Chechnya and Dagestan and terrorist activities elsewhere in Russia.
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