Letter: In defence of Ann Clwyd

Sir: I am writing to express my regret to see a person of the intellectual and moral stature of Ann Clwyd forced to leave an important position in the Labour Party (report, 4 April). I knew of her for many years before I met her, and I was aware of her courageous and unique stand in the Western world against the brutality of the Iraqi regime at a time when no public figure dared challenge Saddam Hussein.

I would like to put on record, as I did recentlyat a conference on Iraq which my centre organised with Ms Clwyd, that the emergence of the safe haven in northern Iraq and, more importantly, its durability in the early critical months of 1991 (when the concept was still a delicate but precious novelty of an otherwise hollow new world order) is owed principally to her and her close colleagues in the Labour Party. I know this from co-ordination with her at the time but, more to the point, from the person in charge at the Foreign Office for Middle East policy who had privately underlined her unique effectiveness.

The future of the Middle East, including the looming confrontation between "Islam" and the West, is premised on developments in Iraq, which is the most strategic and most delicate country in the region at present. Ms Clwyd may have breached party discipline by going there, but with the recent Turkish attack the Iraqi crisis is threatening to undermine again the stability of the whole region in a way that people like her, in influential positions, can help reverse.

I understand she has a special rapport with the new Foreign Minister of Turkey which, in the light of the invasion of northern Iraq, can be put to use for a well-constructed policy that history will rememberas a unique contribution by the leaders of the Labour Party, transcending party differences, to change the course of events for the benefit of Iraqi Arabs and Kurds.

I hope, for the sake of the future of the Middle East and the association of democracy with the region, whichMs Clwyd is helping us construct, she will soon return to the front bench.

Yours sincerely

CHIBLI MALLAT

Director

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

School of Oriental and African Studies

University of London

London, WC1

7 April

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