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Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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To ask the Prime Minister whether she will make a statement on diplomatic contacts designed to achieve the release of British citizens held captive by Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Lebanon.

The plight of the British citizens held hostage is constantly in the minds of all of us. We have raised the matter with a wide range of Governments and organisations which might have influence on the hostage holders. We shall continue to use every contact and follow up every lead that we believe might bring results.

Will my right hon. Friend press the Iranian Government to abide by normal decent standards of international behaviour and bring about the release of those entirely innocent people in Lebanon forthwith? Will she also press that Government to do something about the absolutely abominable human rights situation in Iran?

Our position on hostages is well known. We take precisely the view that my hon. Friend has just expressed. Any nation that has any information, or any influence on those who are holding hostages, should do all in its power to secure their release, as that is the only norm of civilised behaviour. We ask Iran to do that as well. My hon. Friend knows that our ambassador in Lebanon is actively following up every lead.

With regard to human rights in Iran, we welcome the decision by the Iranian Government to invite the United Nations special representative on human rights to pay a second visit to Iran. We hope that he will be given full facilities to investigate thoroughly all aspects of human rights there, and any breaches of those rights by the Iranian Government.

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has recently returned from the Lebanon.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we must have the greatest sympathy for the hostages and their families, we must never do anything to undermine her strong stand against international terrorism? We must remember at all times that these groups are backed on the one hand by Iranians who have condemned a British citizen to death and on the other by the Syrians who continue to shelter the principal suspects of the Lockerbie bombing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, we broke off diplomatic relations with Syria because of its part in helping to place the bomb on the El Al aircraft. Diplomatic relations could not possibly continue in those circumstances. We do not think it right to restore those diplomatic relations yet, but we plead with Iran and Syria to do all in their power in the modern world to secure the release of hostages. That is the only way for civilised nations, which expect to be welcomed into diplomatic international circles, to behave.