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Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

The United Nations Secretary-General is clear that the UN has a significant role. We welcome the appointment of a new special representative: he has our full support in implementing the UN's role under Security Council resolution 1770.

The EU is committed to developing its engagement and supporting the UN. We welcome the recent high-profile visits by the Swedish and French Foreign Ministers, and the discussion stimulated within the EU.

I welcome the Minister’s response. Will he join me in welcoming the recent statements by the French Government and the EU High Representative, Javier Solana, on the need to help and to co-ordinate the reconstruction work of the Iraqi Government and indeed their allies in projects such as Operation Sinbad, which has recently ended in Basra? Will he expand on the success of that project?

That is an important question. The effect of Operation Sinbad on employment levels, for example, in Basra has been significant. There is a long way to go, though. Basra is still suffering greatly. There is an enormous amount of work to do on infrastructure. It will be helped if EU nations and wealthy nations of the west realise that that reconstruction helps everyone, not just the people of Basra and Iraq. It will help to prove that a democracy can function well in the middle east, ensuring that people are employed, children are educated and the health system works. It will become a model for the rest of the region.

The Minister will be well aware that there are possibly as many as 2 million internally displaced Iraqis and that possibly as many as 2 million people have fled to a place of safety in neighbouring countries. What support is being offered to Jordan and Syria to cope with that very large influx of desperate people? What is being done to support the people who have been displaced within Iraq, who are living in desperate poverty, without any support or services whatever?

My hon. Friend has asked an important question. This Government have given a great deal of financial support to try to help to improve the humanitarian situation. We know that the Governments of Syria and Jordan especially require a lot more help. We have been lobbying to ensure that our partners in Europe give some money for humanitarian support as well and, even more importantly, that the very wealthy neighbours of Iraq, Jordan and Syria, especially the oil Governments of the Gulf, realise that they have a role to play too and that they could alleviate that suffering significantly.