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Iraq: Security

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the security situation in al-Basra Province. (196609)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment his Department has made of the development of the (a) security, (b) political and (c) economic situation in Basra province since December 2007; and if he will make a statement. (196917)

I refer the hon. Members to the update I provided to the House on the security situation in Basra in my Statement on 1 April 2008, Official Report, columns 628-43. We continue to keep the security situation in Basra under close review following the transfer of Basra to Provincial Iraqi Control in December 2007 and in the light of recent developments. We and our coalition partners continue to provide support to the Iraqis in our overwatch role in accordance with our rules of engagement.

There has been encouraging political progress in Basra since December. For example, the supporting the Law Council, which represents all of Basra’s political leaders, signed an agreement in December 2007 committing them to support the rule of law and recognise the ISF as the sole guardians of security in Basra. This demonstrated a willingness on the part of all of Basra’s political parties to work together in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation. This commitment has been tested during recent events, but it is striking that Muqtada al-Sadr, in his statement of 30 March 2008, reaffirmed the importance of cooperation with the Government and the need to respect the rule of law.

The UK is also working with coalition partners and the Government of Iraq to promote private sector-led economic growth in Basra. Since December we have helped to launch a Basra Development Commission, which is bringing together Iraqi, regional and international business leaders to provide advice and guidance to the Provincial Council and promoting Basra as an investment location through a recent major investment conference in Kuwait. We are leading on an initiative to help set up the Basra Development Fund, to provide finance to small and medium sized enterprises, and to make progress on key projects such as the redevelopment of Basra International Airport and Umm Qasr port.