Dáil Éireann - Volume 567 - 29 May, 2003

Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - Foreign Conflicts.

  2. Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position on control of the Iraqi oil resources and in particular the Government's views on a Security Council resolution which would give control of such resources to the occupying powers; and the arrangements he favours to follow the oil for food programme which is due for renewal in early June 2003. [14988/03]

  Mr. Cowen: The Government believes the natural resources of Iraq should be returned to the stewardship of the people of Iraq as soon as possible, and that the Iraqi people have the right to determine their own political future. Security Council Resolution 1483, to which the Deputy refers, takes this as its starting point. This resolution also recognises that until the Iraqi people are in a position to exercise these rights, the occupying powers have specific authorities, responsibilities and obligations under international law.

  The resolution does not give control of Iraq's oil revenues to the occupying powers. On the contrary, it provides that all export sales shall be made consistent with international market best practices and that this will be independently audited. It also provides that all proceeds from such sales shall be deposited into the development fund for Iraq until such time as an internationally recognised representative government is established by the people of Iraq. The development fund for Iraq will be subject to the scrutiny of an international advisory and monitoring board. Its members will include representatives of the UN Secretary General and the international financial [1612]institutions, including the director general of the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development.

  Therefore the Government is satisfied that under Resolution 1483, sufficient monitoring will be put in place to allow the United Nations and the international community in general to assess the manner in which Iraqi oil revenues are used.

  The oil for food programme was of critical importance to the people of Iraq while Iraq was under economic sanctions. The removal of sanctions on all but military supplies will facilitate both the resumption of normal trade and economic life for the people of Iraq, and the operations of international NGOs. These changes should eventually permit the essential needs of the Iraqi people to be met without recourse to the oil for food programme. Resolution 1483 allows for the programme's phasing out within six months to cover the transitional period and ensure that essential supplies are continued until conditions permit the use of alternative measures.

  Mr. M. Higgins: I hope the Minister will take the earliest possible opportunity to correct statements made by him, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and others, as to the existence of weapons of mass destruction which was invoked as the basis for Ireland's covert and overt support for an illegal war in Iraq.

  I asked about three specific matters in the question. Article 13 of the resolution to which he refers – 1483 – states that the funds in the development fund for Iraq should be disbursed at the direction of the authority, in consultation with the Iraqi interim administration, for the purposes set out in the following paragraph. I put it to him that this resolution represents the humiliation of the United Nations. It represents the recognition of the occupying powers. I put it to the Minister that this is far beyond the obligations in the Geneva Convention. The paragraph I refer to gives it the deciding powers in relation to the disbursement of funds from Iraqi oil. Another paragraph suggests that the Iraqi people will pay for the total costs of reconstruction, for the inspections and for the will-o'-the-wisp hunt for weapons of mass destruction. All that will be paid for out of Iraqi oil. That is in the resolution. In regard to the question of security for the delivery of the food programme which I asked about, what will replace the 40,000 odd distribution points for food for the Iraqi people when all the people who have been members of the Ba'ath Party have been eliminated from consideration in distribution? The Minister referred in his reply – and he is right – that there is a paragraph winding up the United Nations food distribution programme. I put it to him that having been conned on the basis of an illegal and immoral war he is now being conned in relation to the role of the United Nations. He is also being conned in regard to the structure of humanitarian relief and the pumping, sale and use of Iraqi oil for the Iraqi people.

[1613]  Mr. Cowen: I do not accept the assertions made by the Deputy in regard to the rather colloquial phrase about the UN being conned. The UN adopted the resolution in the Security Council, which has the same validity as previous resolutions, including resolution 1441. I do not accept that the United Nations is not involved; in fact, any objective observer would recognise that the role of the UN has been greatly enhanced from the first draft that was put forward by the UK and the US in this matter.

  The development fund for Iraq will be subject to the scrutiny of an international advisory and monitoring board. It will involve representatives of the United Nations Secretary General and the international financial institutions, including the director general of the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development. Therefore, the assertions that the Deputy has made are not reasonable in the circumstances. I do not accept that the United Nations does not know how to protect its own position in the context of a unanimous resolution, with the exception of Syria which gave a reason for its absence. We have to accept their validity on the basis of their unanimity – whether we like the contents of resolutions or not.

  Acting Chairman (Mr. Carey): Minister—

  Mr. Cowen: As regards the other wider issue to which the Deputy refers, in regard to weapons of mass destruction, in its Resolution 1441 last November, the United Nations Security Council recognised the threat posed to international peace and security by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. This view was based on the fact that since 1998 Iraq had refused to permit the return of the weapons inspectors with the consequence that they had been unable to fulfil their mandate. Subsequent to this resolution and when faced with the threat of force, Iraq accepted the return of the inspectors. However the degree of co-operation—

  Acting Chairman: I must ask the Minister to conclude.

  Mr. Cowen: It is an important point. However, the degree of co-operation which Iraq extended to the inspectors was described by them as, less than full. The reports of the inspectors made it clear that many questions remained unanswered about Iraq's holdings of weapons of mass destruction. Whether weapons of mass destruction are discovered in Iraq will not alter the fact that the mandate of the arms inspectors remained unfulfilled at the time of the US-led invasion.

  Mr. M. Higgins: I am sorry, but in relation to the resolution, frankly—

  Acting Chairman: I am applying the rules of the House, which allows six minutes per question.

  Mr. M. Higgins: We will not have an oppor[1614]tunity of discussing this again, probably, until after the summer. It is much fairer that we can have time allocated to discuss this fully. The whole basis for the war in Iraq has been exposed. In addition, what the Minister said is incorrect. On the last occasion I asked him questions about Resolution 1441 which mentioned the role of the inspectors. Why were the inspectors not allowed to complete their task.

  Acting Chairman: Deputy Higgins—

  Mr. M. Higgins: The whole bogus nonsense on which this war was constructed is now being exposed internationally. It might be helpful for the Minister to admit that.

  Acting Chairman: Deputy Higgins—

  Mr. M. Higgins: Resolution 1441 referred to the existence of weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to its neighbours and to the world. This was untrue.

  Acting Chairman: I thank Deputy Higgins. His colleagues have questions which ought to be answered also.

  Mr. M. Higgins: It was part of a propaganda war for people who wanted to go to war at whatever cost, that we shamefully assisted.

  Acting Chairman: I thank Deputy Higgins. Question—

  Mr. Cowen: I want to refute those assertions.

  Acting Chairman: Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Gormley.

  Mr. Cowen: We might have a chance to come back to these questions. It is important to clarify this country's position—

  Mr. M. Higgins: Absolutely. Let us debate it if the Minister wishes.

  Mr. Cowen: It has been misrepresented.

  Mr. M. Higgins: No, it is being very fair to it.

  Mr. Cowen: When the last inspectors left it was clear that a capacity was there. It is not a question of the United States or anything else. Mr. Blix, to whom I spoke about these matters, recognised the capacity and capability of the Iraqis in this matter.

  Mr. M. Higgins: He needed three months.

  Acting Chairman: Allow the Minister, please.

  Mr. Gormley: He said there were no weapons.

  Mr. Cowen: With respect—

[1615]  Acting Chairman: I ask the Minister to deal with Question No. 3, please.

  Mr. M. Higgins: I supported the inspectors. That is the difference between us.

  Mr. Cowen: Sorry, without interruption. I set out clearly, when we last had a debate on this issue, what the Government position is. It is unfortunate that Deputy Higgins wishes to misrepresent it.

  Mr. M. Higgins: I was here and I remember it.

  Mr. Cowen: Yes, and the Deputy misrepresents our position.

  Mr. M. Higgins: The Minister justified Ireland's position on the basis of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and he was wrong. He was conned at best—

  Acting Chairman: Sorry, Deputy Higgins, allow the Minister, to answer Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Gormley.

  Mr. M. Higgins: —willingly.

  Mr. Cowen: It is unfortunate that Deputy Higgins takes that position. Anyway, it is a partisan position.

  Mr. M. Higgins: It happens to be based on truth. The Minister is only encouraging the United States and Britain in this latest resolution to tell the United Nations what is going on in Iraq. It is even demanding—

  Mr. Cowen: I will not respond. I am sure there will be other opportunities for me to clarify the position.

  Acting Chairman: Minister, Question No. 3 in the name of Deputy Gormley.

  Mr. Cowen: It is unfortunate that Deputy Higgins takes that position.