Letter: Iraq's arms suppliers

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The Independent Online
IN his carefully crafted speech to the House of Commons on Iraq on 17 February, the Foreign Secretary chose to quote the words of the Unscom chairman Richard Butler: "Saddam avoids answering questions and prevents Unscom from finding the answers". But ministers in Robin Cook's own department are equally reticent to share their knowledge of who provided the Iraqi dictatorship with its deadly weapons.

The junior foreign minister Tony Lloyd said in a written answer on 9 February that "British manufactured equipment has been found at a number of sites inspected by Unscom and the IAEA. Any evidence of wrongdoing is investigated and, if appropriate, will be a matter for the courts".

On 16 February, another Foreign Office minister, Derek Fatchett, declined to provide a list of the British companies whose names had been found by the UN inspectors on military equipment in Iraq used in Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme, saying he had "nothing to add".

One of the recurring themes of the Scott Inquiry into arms exports to Iraq was the number of times Parliament had been misinformed and under- informed by Conservative ministers, in what amounted to a persistent cover- up by the Conservative government. In the parliamentary debate on the Scott Report two years ago this month Robin Cook rightly castigated Conservative ministers for their massive failure to keep Parliament properly informed. Perhaps he might consider again his department's refusal to name the British suppliers of the Iraqi dictator's deadly arsenal.


Stoneleigh, Surrey