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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11828

Mr MARTYN EVANS (1:49 PM) —I thank the House for the opportunity to continue this debate and for opposing the motion of those who seek to close down the debate and deny those like me the opportunity to continue to discuss this most important of topics before the parliament and the country at this time.

To understand the conflict that potentially faces the country and the world at the moment, I think it is very important that we understand the history of the situation before the United Nations concerning Iraq. To do that we have to look back to the first Gulf War and the issues that precipitated it. Obviously, the coalition partners that fought the Gulf War back in the early 1990s did so on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait—that totally unprecedented invasion of a neighbouring country for no reason other than to seize assets which that country had and which the Iraqi regime wanted for itself. The United Nations Security Council responded quite properly to that invasion by authorising coalition forces to mount an operation to forcibly remove the Iraqi regime from Kuwait by military means if necessary, and that of course turned out to be the only way to do so.

Following that successful military operation, the coalition partners stopped at the mandated borders of Iraq—the proper borders of Iraq. That is where the operation ceased. The cease-fire that followed that operation—which the Iraqi government agreed to, quite willingly, in order to end the war—allowed unfettered access by United Nations inspectors to all and any places within Iraq in order to successfully conclude the disarmament of Iraq and the destruction of all weapons of mass destruction within that country. The very basis of that resolution in the early nineties—which, as I say, the Iraqi government completely endorsed—was unfettered access by the inspectors to all places within the country that they required access to in order to successfully destroy any weapons of mass destruction they found.

As we now know—as history has revealed to us—the inspectors were able to find quite a number of weapons. When the inspectors left the first time, in December 1998, a sizeable part of the program had been destroyed—some 39,000 chemical munitions, 690 tonnes of chemical agents, 3,000 tonnes of chemical agent precursors and 420 pieces of production equipment. The inspectors had also dismantled or accounted for 817 Scud missiles which might have been used to take those chemical agents to Iraq's neighbours. That was the result of the extensive work of the UN inspection teams.

Iraq's cooperation declined to the point where, in 1997, the inspectors reported to the United Nations that they were unable to continue their task with any degree of success. The UN continued its diplomatic efforts to maintain that course of inspections, but that was unsuccessful and the inspectors withdrew in 1998. A further resolution was passed by the UN Security Council in 1999 following further diplomatic activity and an extensive military build-up. The 1999 resolution was completely ignored by the Iraqi government. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, personally intervened. He undertook extensive negotiations with Saddam Hussein but finally reported that he had reached an impasse—he was unable to conclude that the Iraqi government was in any way serious in its efforts, so there was no way that successful inspections could continue. It is even more interesting that, despite the extensive efforts of the inspectors, for an extended period of years they completely failed to note any biological weapons development by the Iraqi regime.

It was only as a result of the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law in 1995 that the existence of the extensive biological weapons program was discovered. Without the defection, the United Nations inspectors would have been totally unaware of the development of extensive biological weapons in Iraq. These included anthrax bacteria, carcinogenic aflatoxins, agricultural toxins and the paralysing poison botulinis toxin. For those who are unaware, botulinis toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known to humankind. It is an extremely hazardous bacteriological poison. Anthrax is very much before us at the moment in the context of the vaccine program. One gram of anthrax spores is capable of holding one trillion spores. If it were dispersed properly—which is extremely difficult—it could infect one hundred million people. It is quite difficult to disperse one gram, but it could be grown in vats into quite substantial amounts. These chemicals and biological weapons are extremely dangerous.

Despite four years of inspections, the UN inspectors were unable to detect that program, which had been successfully hidden for the whole period the inspectors were there. Despite their active work, they were not aware of it until the defection of Saddam's son-in-law. Hence, inspections cannot always be relied upon, which is why this time around the UN Security Council has insisted on the most stringent disclosure provisions in resolution 1441. The Security Council has not proposed that the inspectors must find everything. The difficulty with that is now well known, because the biological weapons program was hidden for all that time.

The UN Security Council has wisely demanded that the Iraqi regime disclose these programs. Ultimately, that is the only successful way to ensure that all the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs are found. It is the only way we will ever know what the regime has hidden for all of these years. It is the only way we will ever know whether programs have been developed in the intervening period since the inspectors left, after the failure of the Secretary-General's negotiations. One cannot attribute that failure to him; one must attribute that failure to the Iraqi regime. One cannot say that it is a failure of the UN process; it is clearly a failure of the regime to cooperate with the United Nations. That failure is indicative of Iraq's ongoing failure to cooperate with the United Nations—its intransigent attitude. The Iraqi regime caused the deaths of nearly one million people during the Iran-Iraq war. It used chemical weapons on the Kurds, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Iraq is the only modern regime to use chemical weapons on its own countrymen—in fact, on any large-scale population.

Parties of the social democratic tradition—indeed, any political party—must support the United Nations as it pursues the issues through its own processes. The United Nations must strengthen its own role in the Security Council. This is not an argument for war; this is an argument for the United Nations to act strongly as a united and coordinated group to insist that regimes like Iraq and North Korea respond to the international community. These countries must respond to a strong and united international community that is prepared to act with strength through organisations such as the United Nations Security Council. The response should leave no doubt that the international community is united in its desire to achieve through its existing mechanisms a peaceful outcome but that the Security Council can organise a military outcome if necessary. The military option must be there, but it must be organised by the Security Council. And that is what the Labor Party supports—a Security Council that acts with strength.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101A. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.