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Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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What discussions he has had with EU partners on allied support for the reconstruction of Iraq.—[112231]

Now that decisive combat operations have been completed in Iraq, United Kingdom forces are concentrating on stabilisation and humanitarian tasks. In taking forward the wider political and economic reconstruction of Iraq, the coalition and, in due course, a new Iraqi Government, will need to draw on the expertise of the international community. Recent discussions with a number of countries, including European Union partners, have covered the possible contribution of numerous capabilities, including, but not limited to, infantry, medical personnel, engineers and logistic support.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can he assure the House that his Department will draw on the experience of our EU partners, particularly in the Balkans and Afghanistan, to ensure that vital services are restored in Iraq as quickly as possible?

I can assure my hon. Friend, as I said a moment ago, that we want to draw on the experience of a number of EU partners and, indeed, future EU partners. They have indicated their willingness to make military capabilities available, and we want to use them.

Surely, one of the lessons that we have learned from previous conflicts concerns our rather tardy approach to clearing up civilian areas post-conflict. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give the House that thousands of unexploded bomhlets will be cleared from civilian areas first, rather than from those areas that our troops our entering?

I indicated the priority that was given to the clean-up a few moments ago. Those efforts continue, and they do not discriminate between civilian and other areas. A determined effort is made to ensure the safety and security of both military and civilian personnel.