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Volume 403: debated on Tuesday 8 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received concerning the attacks by government-backed Arab militants upon the Fur people of Darfur in western Sudan; what discussions he will have with the Sudanese Government concerning these attacks; and what benchmarks will be used to determine progress made in these discussions. [106422]

There have been persistent reports of fighting in Darfur. The British Embassy in Khartoum will continue to monitor the situation. They are in contact with a wide range of government and National Congress party officials in addition to Darfur MPs and other local representatives. Our Embassy in Khartoum has requested permission to visit Darfur and will do so as soon as possible.We discussed the situation in Darfur most recently with the Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of the EU/Sudan dialogue on 27 March. He reported that the Government of Sudan has established mechanisms to resolve peacefully the situation in Darfur. We have no separate benchmarks to assess progress.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on (a) the mandate of Gerhart Baum, UN Special Rapporteur on Sudan and (b) the human rights status accorded to Sudan by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. [107238]

We take a close interest and play an active role in the promotion of human rights in Sudan. This includes our strong support for the work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) there. The UK has until now been the main contributor of funding for the Office of the HCHR in Khartoum. As a member of the EU, the UK has consistently supported successive EU-sponsored resolutions at the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN General Assembly. We believe that it is important to maintain the mandate of the Special Rapporteur as part of the general effort to improve the human rights situation in Sudan. The UNCHR is currently discussing human rights in Sudan in Geneva.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether operations have recommenced in oil concessions 5a and 5b in southern Sudan. [107239]

Work has resumed in block 5a in the areas which were abandoned in January 2002. In block 5b no work is under way or planned.