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Volume 405: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 1 May 2003, Official Report, column 449W, on Iraq, what factors underlay the decision on whom to invite to the National Dialogue Conference on l5 April. [112348]

The Coalition issued invitations to individual Iraqis to attend the Nassiriya Conference on 15 April. Invitations were aimed at attracting a range of Iraqi groups, including opposition and exile groups and those newly liberated.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations were received by his Department from (a) the All Party Parliamentary Archaelogical Group and (b) the British School of Archaeology on the need to protect Iraq's cultural heritage in advance of the start of the invasion of Iraq; what steps were taken in respect of the representations; and what response his Department made to the representations. [111360]

Dr. Crawford, Chairman, British School of Archaeology in Iraq, wrote to Edward Chaplin, FCO Director, on 27 December 2002, to express her concern about the threat to the monuments and heritage of Iraq in the event of millitary action. Mr. Chaplin replied on 4 February stating that the letter had been passed to the relevant Government Departments, as requested, and offered the Middle East Department as a future contact point.I replied on 16 April to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeological Group's letter of II February to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.The Government shares the concerns of the group about the importance of protecting and preserving archaeological sites and museums in Iraq. Before the conflict started, the Ministry of Defence consulted widely with the archaeological fraternity, who provided lists of key sites of cultural and historical interest in Iraq. Troops were briefed accordingly and avoided key sites of cultural and historical interest as far as possible during the conflict.We could not prevent damage inflicted by Iraqi forces. Most of the looting by criminal elements occurred whilst the fighting was continuing. The aim of the Coalition forces at this stage was to suppress Saddam Hussein's forces with minimal loss of Coalition lives and Iraqi civilians.Troops guarded cultural sites where they could, but this was not always possible due to the security situation. It also now appears that organised groups had access to Baghdad Museum and planned the looting well in advance of military action.The US has informed us that there are guards at the Baghdad Museum and that the looting of artefacts is now under control.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of the United States to provide for an independent body that can carry out an investigation of allegations of the unlawful use of lethal force by members of the armed forces performing policing and public order duties in Iraq. [111846]

None. We are not aware of any allegations of unlawful use of lethal force by UK personnel in Iraq. However, were such an allegation to be made, the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, a detachment of which is currently deployed in the Gulf, would be responsible for carrying out an investigation into the circumstances.Any allegations against US personnel would be a matter for the US authorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what involvement the United Nations has in Iraq in respect of (a) delivery of humanitarian aid, (b) policing and other civilian security, (c) re-building works, (d) economic development and (e) establishment of new political institutions. [112283]

We believe that the UN has a vital role to play in Iraq. It is already delivering humanitarian aid under the Oil for Food Programme and co-ordinating the work of humanitarian NGOs.The UK, together with the US and Spain, has put forward a draft Security Council resolution providing for an influential and wide-ranging UN role. The draft resolution calls for the appointment of a UN Special Co-ordinator whose tasks would be:

support for and co-ordination of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance by UN agencies and non-governmental organisations;
support for the orderly and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons;
working with others to restore and establish national and local institutions for representative governance;
facilitating the reconstruction of key infrastructure, in cooperation with other international organisations;
promoting economic reconstruction and the conditions for sustainable development, including through co-ordination with national and regional organisations, as appropriate, civil society, donors and the international financial institutions;
encouraging international efforts to contribute to basic civilian administration functions;
promoting human rights;
encouraging international efforts to rebuild the capacity of the Iraqi civilian police force;
supporting international efforts to promote legal and judicial reform.

We will be discussing the detail of this role with the UN and with Security Council partners.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government made about the invitations to the National Dialogue Conference in Iraq on 15 April; whom the Government met for discussions, and on which dates; who made the final decisions about the list of invitees; and if he will make a statement. [112316]

The meeting in Nassiriya took place on 15 April, while the military campaign was still under way. The invitation list was primarily a US one, designed quickly to initiate the political process towards establishing an Iraqi Interim Authority. The UK was invited to suggest additions to the invitations list. There were a number of close contacts between UK and US officials in the run up to this meeting, but the final decision on invitees rested with the US organisers on the event.