New Forest East

DFID – IRAQ – 12 November 2003

[The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn):  … Iraq is a complex country with a difficult history and that making decisions about its future governance will require much careful debate and discussion. … ]

Dr Julian Lewis: Is it not precisely because this is such a complex situation that it is unfortunate that Britain is not being consulted when the Americans are making key decisions about what is to be done? The Secretary of State, as always, was comprehensive in his reply to the Shadow Secretary of State [John Bercow], but he did not address the point about the Foreign Secretary or, indeed, any Government representative not being included in the discussions between the Americans and Ambassador Bremer? I think that the Secretary of State is old enough to remember what happened in the run-up to our withdrawal from Aden, when the security situation was coming under control, only for a premature announcement to be made that we were going to withdraw. That was intended to pacify people, but it encouraged the terrorists. It is important that we are not panicked into hasty action and that the Americans are not either. With our experience, there may be some things that we can usefully tell them about such a process.

[Hilary Benn: I shall resist the temptation, because I would probably be ruled out of order, to discuss the experience of our withdrawal from Aden in 1967. Discussions are taking place all the time between all the parties in the process, including Ambassador Bremer, whom I met when I was in Baghdad and with whom Jeremy Greenstock has regular discussions. … As a result of those discussions, the Iraqi governing council will take decisions and make recommendations on 15 December that will chart the way forward.]