Iraq

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1998.

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Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney 12:00 am, 7th April 1998

What assessment he has made of the progress of weapons inspectors in Iraq since the UN Secretary-General's agreement with Saddam Hussein. [36544]

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I am satisfied that Iraq has so far adhered to the commitments it gave to the United Nations Secretary-General on 23 February. At present, it is allowing weapons inspections to proceed in line with its obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Given the current situation, compared with that of just a few months ago, has not the Government's policy of taking a tough stance with Saddam Hussein been completely vindicated? Has not that policy improved peace prospects in that part of the globe?

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I agree with my hon. Friend. The position taken by the Government and supported by the other political parties in the House was the right one to take. When he was in Baghdad, Kofi Annan acknowledged that the threat of force helped in the negotiations. It is in all our interests for the agreement to be adhered to, and we shall continue to monitor the situation closely.

Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale

Given what the Minister has just said, will he continue to resist the requests of some Labour Members, which were aired yesterday in Defence questions, to withdraw British forces from the Gulf? Will he instead keep them in place and reinforce them until we can be clear that Saddam Hussein is living up to the spirit and the letter of all agreements with the United Nations?

Photo of Mr Derek Fatchett Mr Derek Fatchett Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

I had a meeting last week with Richard Butler of UNSCOM, who told me what was happening on the ground and that UNSCOM was able to carry out its work. It is important that we maintain our vigilance: we must be cautious and must not become over-optimistic about the delivery of the agreement. We want the agreement to be honoured, and it is important that we free Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. It is essential for UNSCOM to get on with its work unfettered.