Correspondence between number 10, FCO and MP:
Approximate text (from OCR scan):
JIM DOWD MP Lewisham West
Mrs Sybil Coady 111 London Road Forest Hill
HOUSE OF COMMONS LONDON SWIA OAA 02072194617
020 7219 2686 (Fax)
26 March 2002
Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Prime Minister’s approach to Government foreign policy.
Given your obvious concerns in this matter, I have contacted the Prime Minister with a request for his response to the points you raise and as soon as I have his reply I will contact you again.
Constituency Office: 43 Sunderland Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 2PS Telephone: 020 8699 2001 /020 8291 5607
LONDON SWlA 2AA
From the Direct Communications Unit
3 April 2002
Dear Mr Dowd
I am writing on behalf of the Prime Minister to thank you for your letter of 26 March with which you enclosed correspondence from Mrs Sybil Coady of 111 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3XW.
The Prime Minister has asked me to arrange for a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to reply to you direct.
Mr Jim Dowd MP
Our reference: 146424/02
Foreign & Commonwealth
London SWIA 2AH
From the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Jim Dowd Esq MP House of Commons London SWIAOAA
Thank you for your letter of26 March to Tony Blair, enclosing one from your constituent, Mrs Sybil Coady of 111 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3XW about Iraq. I have been asked to reply as Minister responsible for relations with Iraq.
I know some people fear imminent military action against Iraq, but they need not. No decision has been made on military action. It is not imminent and certainly not inevitable. We intend to consider the way forward in a calm, measured and sensible way.
The choice in the end will be Saddam’s. All he has to do is comply with the demands of the United Nations, including by allowing UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq to make sure he has dismantled his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. That was something he promised to do after the Gulf War. Indeed, it was a pre-condition of the cease- fire back then.
Saddam runs one of the most, if not the most detestable regime in the world. Political opponents are routinely tortured and executed. Saddam has invaded his neighbours and, uniquely for any dictator in the world, has used chemical weapons against them and even against his own people.
Our policy toward Iraq is not confined to the threat ofWMD. We care about the problems ordinary Iraqis face living under the current brutal regime. This is why we have worked hard, within the UN system, to remove restrictions on the flow of humanitarian goods. Unfortunately, the Iraqi regime frustrates our efforts by failing to order the humanitarian supplies the UN oil-for-food programme provides for, and the Iraqi people need. It is Saddam Hussein, not the international community, who is indifferent to the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.
The United Nations supports our taking a strong line on Iraqi compliance with UNSCRs because only then do we have a chance of convincing the Iraqi regime to allow the inspectors back in. When the UN inspectors were there doing their job they uncovered
significant evidence of Saddams weapons of mass destruction programme, despite the Iraqi dictators’ efforts to disrupt their work. Their reports pointed to the regimes attempts to conceal significant parts of their weapons programme. For the last three years there have been no inspections because Saddam made the inspector’s work impossible. All the evidence indicates that Saddams weapons programme has accelerated since then.
So, I’m afraid doing nothing, simply putting our heads in the sand and hoping the problem will go away won’t work. We learned over Al Qaida and the Taliban, the Balkans with Milosevic and back in the 1930s with Hitler that the cost of not acting or delaying action against such a terrible threat exacts a far higher price in death and human suffering in the end.
Sadly, sometimes military action is necessary. But we always take it only as a last resort. As I said at the start of this letter, no decision has yet been taken on Iraq. I hope it will not come to military action. But the ball is firmly in Saddam’s court.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Foreign & Commonwealth Office King Charles Street Whitehall
III London Road Forest Hill London SE233XW
DQ_Q_ M~ CoOJi~
Thank you for your recent letter about Iraq. I have been asked to reply.
I am of course aware of the considerable media speculation that the UK is preparing for imminent military action against Iraq. But the speculation is just that – speculation. No decision has been taken. But it is true to say that we, like the UN Security Council, the European Union and Iraq’s neighbours, continue to have serious concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. Because not only does the Iraqi regime have these weapons, the potentially horrific capabi I ities of which threaten the security of the region and the world, the regime has also shown, with its extensive use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s and against the Iraqi people of I-Ia I abj a in 1988, that it is prepared to use them. Saddam Hussein remains the only leader in world history to have authorised the use of nerve agents.
We know that the Iraqi regime has these weapons because UN weapons inspectors working in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 found the evidence. For example, the Iraq is admi tted possessing large quantities of chemical warfare agents including Sarin, Tabun, Mustard Gas and VX Gas. They admitted producing deadly biological warfare agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin, gas gangrene and aflatoxin. And they admitted hiding these and other weapons in desert sands, caves and railway tunnels. At the end of i998, however, Iraq’s persistent obstruction of the work 0 f the UN inspectors finally forced them to leave, although they were still unable to account for 31,000 chemical munitions, 610 tonnes of precursor chemicals
used to produce VX gas and 4,000 tOIU1es of chemicals for other munitions. We believe that the Baghdad regime is still hiding these weapons in a range oflocations. More importantly, we have seen evidence, much of it based on sensitive intelligence, that in the three year absence of weapons inspectors, Iraq has persisted with its chemical and biological weapons programmes and that it is developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering these weapons to targets beyond the 150km limit imposed by the UN. This would allow Iraq to hit countries as far away as the United Arab Emirates.
Faced with this threat, the international community’s most pressing demand is therefore that Iraq allow weapons inspectors to return and finish their work. If there is nothing to hide, the Iraqis should have no problem in allowing them to do so without preconditions. Saddam Hussein knows that the UN Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) teams have been ready to get to work in Iraq for almost two years. He knows too that we are looking for real disarmament. But instead of co-operating with the UN weapons inspectors, he indulges in propaganda stunts, making phoney offers for British inspectors to visit under controlled conditions.
It is not just in the key area of disarmament where Iraq has failed to co-operate with the UN. During the last twelve years the UN has imposed twenty seven obligations on Iraq, including that the regime end its repression ofIraq’s civilian population and co-operate in accounting for the Kuwaitis and others missing since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Iraq remains in breach of23 of these obligations. In the face of these obstructions our diplomatic efforts will continue. But Baghdad must understand that we cannot allow Iraq to reject the will of the international community and to pose a threat to regional and world security forever.
Until the Baghdad regime complies, the rigorous controls which have helped to contain Iraq for the last twelve years must remain. This is a point on which all members of the Security Council are agreed. These controls have played a vital role in frustrating Saddam Hussein’s ambitions. Nonetheless the human rights record of the Baghdad regime – a regime which thinks nothing of using rape, torture or assassination to silence its opponents – remains notorious as one of the worst in the world. Although the United Nations Security Council and the UN Commission on Human Rights have consistently condemned the repression of the civilian population, Iraq continues to flout UN resolutions and ignore its international human rights commitments. We agree with many others, including other governments in the region – that Iraq would be a better place without Saddam Hussein. But while he remains and continues to refuse to co-operate with the UN, so too must UN controls.
Meanwhile Iraqi propaganda continues to try lay the blame for the suffering in Iraq at the door of the UN rather than at the gates of Saddam’ s palaces, where it truly belongs. Unfortunately many well-intentioned people continue to be taken in by Saddam’s lies. The truth is that the UN allows the Iraqi regime access to more than enough money for all the humanitarian goods the Iraqis need. Indeed, according to a senior UN official’s recent report, the UN’s “oil for food” programme continues to make an “ocean of difference” to the lives of the Iraqi people. Since the programme began in December 1996, over $32 billion worth of goods – not just food and medicine but a wide range of goods helping to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure – have been approved for export to Iraq. Furthermore, the Sanctions Committee have agreed a list of over 16,000 items which are “fast-tracked” to Iraq, and which no longer need to be referred to the Committee but simply notified to the Secretariat. More than $8 billion worth of contracts have been processed through this accelerated procedure. As a result under “oil for food” last year, the UN’s humanitarian spending per head in Iraq was higher than government spending in equivalent areas (such as housing, health and education) in Egypt, Jordan, Syria or Iran. All of this has been achieved despite Iraq’s refusal to accept UN resolutions. How much more would be possible if the Iraqi regime put the Iraqi people first and began to co-operate. In northern Iraq, where the Iraqi regime’s writ does not run, for
example, the benefits of the “oil for food” programme are even more clear. The infrastructure of the north continues to improve, despite Baghdad’s attempts to hamper the UN programme there. Child mortality rates in northern Iraq are now lower than before UN sanctions were imposed. Although under the same UN sanctions, they are lower than the rates in the centre and south of Iraq. And they are still falling.
The UK remains at the forefront of efforts made by the international community to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq. Since 1991, the UK has donated approximately £100 million in aid, both bilaterally and via the EU, making us one oflraq’s largest donors. The Department for International Development has allocated £9 million this financial year for humanitarian assistance to the people oflraq. Our programme in Baghdad-controlled Iraq focuses on the rehabilitation of hospital, water and sanitation infrastructure. In the northern governorates, our programme includes assistance to vulnerable groups, village rehabilitation and de-mining projects.
In contrast, Saddam Hussein prefers to spend money on statues and monuments to himself, not on medicines; and on weapons, not welfare. The regime has, for example, again cut Iraq’s spending on medicines under the “oil for food” programme. At $40 million, the allocation for the first six months of this year is a quarter what it was for the first half of last year. And yet the Iraqi regime is planning to build a $25 million Olympic stadium. The Baghdad regime has failed to respond to a six-month old UN proposal to improve child nutrition. And yet it has found time to make plans for a two-week programme of festivities “celebrating” Saddam Hussein’s birthday this year. While Baghdad claims that “oil for food” cannot meet the health needs of the Iraqi people, it has submitted contracts to the UN in recent weeks for over two billion cigarettes and almost 200,000 television sets. Overall up to $3.5 billion of funds regularly lie unspent by Iraq in the “oil for food” account. And a further $1 billion of humanitarian goods already approved by the UN for import into Iraq are denied to the Iraqi people, blocked by the Iraqi regime’s failure to process them.
The truth is that it is Saddam who allows the Iraqi people to suffer. We prefer to see them prosper. This is why we worked so hard in the UN to introduce the “oil for food” programme – the largest such programme in the UN’s history – and why we have led the way in proposing new arrangements to improve the flow of goods to the Iraqi people while maintaining control on the Iraqi regime’s access to WMD and military-related items. By unanimous adoption of UN resolution 1382 in November 2001, the Security Council agreed to implement these arrangements in May after further consideration of a Goods Review List. This list will mean no sanctions on ordinary imports, only controls on military- and weapons-related goods. It shows that we are focusing on the fundamentals – containing the threat that Iraq poses to its neighbours from its WMD and denying Iraq the opportunity to attribute the suffering in Iraq to UN controls rather than its own shortcomings. After further consultation with the Russians, who asked for more time to consider the list, we hope that these arrangements will be in place by the end of May.
The Iraqi regime opposes these arrangements, just as it opposed the offer, in UN resolution 1284, of the suspension of sanctions in return for its co-operation with UN weapons
inspectors. While Iraq remains in breach of this and its other international obligations we do not rule out any means of persuading it to comply. We have made it clear that any decision we make will be taken carefully, cautiously and in accordance with international law. But Saddam Hussein should be in no doubt that if he continues to refuse to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq to remove the threat, he will have to live with the consequences.
Further details of the UK’s policy on Iraq may be found on the Iraq pages of the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk/irag.
Middle East Department