Written Answers. - Action Against Iraq.

Ivan Yates

Question:

34 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the position in Iraq. [8229/98]

During the recent crisis relating to arms inspections, Ireland took the position that all diplomatic channels had to be exhausted before recourse to force could be countenanced. The key role of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, in resolving the deadlock has been recognised globally, and I pay tribute to him.

The Memorandum of Understanding signed in Baghdad must now be fully respected. The Secretary-General emphasised in his report to the Security Council that "if diplomacy is to succeed, it must be backed both by force and by fairness". He warned that if the agreement were obstructed by evasion or deception, diplomacy might not have a second chance.

With the UN arms decommissioning proceeding, the international community has the duty to alleviate the suffering of the people in Iraq from the effects of the sanctions in place on their Government since 1991. Security Council Resolution 1153 provides for the supply of food and medicines funded by the sale of oil. The amount of oil for sale was increased on 20 February to $5.26 billion per six month period.

Ireland will be represented at a humanitarian meeting in London on 21 and 22 April, organised by the British Presidency, which will focus on the practical aspects of the implementation of the UN humanitarian programme. We welcome every constructive move towards relieving the sufferings of the Iraqi people, and look forward to the day when the completion of the arms decommissioning will signal the lifting of the sanctions.