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Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department has had with the shipping industry on the ownership and operation of the deep water container port at Umm Qasr, Iraq. [105874]

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether (a) British and (b) coalition forces have used (i) depleted uranium and (ii) cluster bombs in the war in. Iraq; and in what circumstances. [107195]

With regard to the use of depleted uranium munitions, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 2 April 2003, Official Report, column 737W to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Llew Smith).On the use of cluster bombs, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) during his statement to the House on 3 April 2003,

Official Report, column 1075. Cluster bombs have been used against targets for which they were the most appropriate available weapon and where they could be used in accordance with international law, including with the principles of proportionality and discrimination.

I am unable to comment on the use of DU munitions and cluster bombs by other coalition forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what the purpose was of the United Kingdom troops attack on an electricity switching station in Basra on 23 March 2003; what was achieved; and if he will make a statement; [107252](2) what the purpose was of the military action by allied forces on 23 March 2003 upon electricity installations in Basra; what was achieved; and if he will make a statement. [107251]

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance has been given to UK forces operating in the no fly zone in southern Iraq on the holy places of the Shi'a in Nayjab and Kerbala. [103735]

[holding answer 18 March 2003]: We are fully aware of the significance of the holy sites in Najaf and Karbala. The coalition is taking every precaution to respect and avoid damage to them.By contrast, we know from intelligence that Saddam Hussein has plans to damage the sites and to blame the coalition. There are precedents: in 1991, Iraq troops attacked and desecrated Imam Ali's shrine and destroyed religious libraries in Najaf; they shelled and desecrated Imam Hussein's shrine in Karbala; and the shrine of Imam Abbas was also reported damaged.The United Kingdom is fully committed to the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict. The Government take very seriously its obligations to act in conformity with international law, the UN Charter and international humanitarian law. In all our military planning, very careful attention is applied to ensure that we minimise the risk of damage to all civilian sites.The targeting process during current operations is conducted in accordance with all obligations under international law, including Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions, and the Targeting Directive to United Kingdom forces stationed in the Gulf contains explicit guidance on their obligations under international and domestic law. For reasons of force protection, I cannot comment on the specifics of our targeting policy, and I am therefore withholding that information under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (Defence, security and international relations).In view of the continuing air operations against Iraq, No Fly Zone patrols have been rendered redundant. This does not mean that we have in any way reduced our humanitarian concerns for the Iraqi people. Our Servicemen and women have daily risked their lives enhancing the security of the civilian population for over a decade, and we will continue to demonstrate that commitment.