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Kuwait

Volume 644: debated on Monday 10 July 1961

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52.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a further statement on the situation in Kuwait.

The Resolution proposed by the United Kingdom representative in the Security Council, which called on all States to respect the independence and territorial integrity of Kuwait, was vetoed by the Soviet Union after obtaining seven affirmative votes; no other member voted against the Resolution. A Resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of British forces, proposed by the United Arab Republic, received only three affirmative votes and consequently failed.

I reaffirm the determination of Her Majesty's Government to stand by their obligations to Kuwait. Her Majesty's Government will continue to work for a solution which will satisfy the Ruler that the threat to Kuwait no longer exists and which will therefore permit the withdrawal of British forces. At the same time I reaffirm the desire of Her Majesty's Government to maintain and continue to develop their friendly relations with Iraq.

Is it now the view of the Government that an attack by the forces of Iraq is most unlikely? If they take that view, what is their policy in relation to the retention of the present forces of this country in that area?

I think it a little early to say that we take the view that an attack is unlikely. We are not sufficiently clear on this as yet. We had definite information in Kuwait that a tank regiment was moved from Baghdad to the Shaiba area near Basra. We have to wait a little while before we can come to any conclusion, but at the same time we have already removed some of our troops from the area, and we certainly have no intention of keeping them there longer than is necessary.

Will my hon. Friend give consideration to inviting at the appropriate stage contingents from Commonwealth countries which are themselves members of the United Nations to assist us in our duties in Kuwait?

We have considered various propositions, particularly that the United Nations might be brought in. My hon. Friend's proposal could be considered in that context.

Have the Government reached any conclusions about the desirability of associating other countries with the defence of the independence of Kuwait, and, in particular, are the Government yet prepared to invite the establishment of some sort of United Nations presence or force in that country?

We have not reached any definite conclusions about this. I remind the hon. Member that Kuwait is an independent State and that anything we did would have to be done in complete agreement with the Ruler, but we do not rule out any such move as he suggests.

May we be told a little more about what proposals the Government have for enabling us to withdraw from Kuwait? Presumably they have something in mind to enable us to do this. Is it to be a United Nations force or do they propose perhaps to get sufficient assurances from Iraq? Are we in touch with the Iraqi Government on this subject?

We are not yet in a position to state any definite terms under which we would withdraw. As I said in answer to earlier Questions, we are considering the possibility of bringing in the United Nations if that could properly be done, but for anything else it is still a little premature. I have indicated that we have withdrawn some of our troops, but I do not think that we can go further than that at the present stage.

If the Ruler, who is very much concerned with this affair, comes to the conclusion that the time has arrived withdraw our troops, would that end the matter?

Certainly. We have acted precisely at the request of the Ruler of Kuwait, and if he desired us to withdraw our troops, of course we should take very immediate steps to take account of his wishes.

Will the Government at the appropriate time publish a White Paper giving the evidence on which they made their statement that an Iraqi attack was expected?

I am prepared to consider that, but I could not go any further at this stage.

Have we had any private communication with the Arab League about this matter? If not, would the Minister consider getting in direct touch with the League to see whether we can find a way out?

We shall certainly be happy to have consultations with the Arab League. I remind the House that Kuwait is not yet a member of that League, and that could pose some difficulties in that respect.

Before going into Kuwait did the Government take into consideration the fact that they were sending men there when the temperature was likely to the 120–130 degrees in the shade? Is he aware that the withdrawal from Kuwait would be gladly welcomed by those men?

Of course, we were aware of the difficulties under which our men would serve, and I pay tribute to what they are doing in those circumstances, but surely when we have obligations to fulfil our men are not afraid to undertake them.