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Palestine Liberation Organisation (Lebanon)

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as to the use by the Palestine Liberation Organisation of United Nations Relief and Works Agency educational centres in Lebanon for military training purposes.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency has carried out its own investigation into allegations that its training camp at Siblin in the Lebanon had been used for military training. Its report confirmed that the centre had been misused and disciplinary measures are being taken.

Bearing in mind the overwhelming necessity for the United Nations to be entirely neutral in the Middle East, and to be seen to be so by both sides, will the right hon. Gentleman press for an investigation to ensure that no other Relief and Works Agency educational centres have been used by the PLO for military purposes?

There has been an investigation, and the principal of the centre has been suspended. Disciplinary measures have been taken against other members of staff. In our view that does not weaken the overwhelming importance of UNRWA, to which we contribute substantially, as the main means in the area of providing humanitarian relief, education and training for refugees.

Is not the main thing now not to concentrate on making propaganda points but to ensure that proper facilities are provided for young Palestinians, many of whom are orphans and without homes, to have proper education? How many young Palestinians are currently receiving education? What do the Government intend to do to ensure that education is available to more of them?

We are worried about the serious financial position of the agency. It is desirable that Arab countries should contribute more extensively. We intend to maintain a substantial contribution.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) drew attention is another aspect of the presence of foreign forces in Lebanon and demonstrates the importance of international peacekeeping? While the problem is being considered, will he bear in mind that whereas a training mission from this country might well be smaller than a major commitment, it might be a longer commitment and more intimately involved with a regime whose future is uncertain? Might it be better to take part in more conventional peacekeeping even if that means a larger force?

We are considering closely with the Lebanese Government the possibility that we could help to train the Lebanese security forces. That could be useful. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already dealt with the matter of a contribution to the force.