Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Iraq

Delivered in Plenary - September 15th 2004

Mr President

The situation in Iraq remains precarious, with the deaths yesterday of 47 innocent Iraqis at the hands of a fanatic suicide bomber - mainly unemployed men seeking work as policemen and willing to try to re-establish law and order in their country and enable free elections to be held next January.

Whether one agrees with the justification for the war or not, everyone now must sympathise with the long-suffering Iraqi people, who yearn for stability in their country. Everyone here must condemn the perpetuation of indiscriminate attacks against the new sovereign government of Dr Allawi and the multinational peacekeeping forces and the barbaric kidnapping and murdering of hostages, solely on the basis of being non-Muslim, or cooperating in rebuilding the country, such as the Italian aid workers.

Clearly, with hindsight, mistakes have been made in underestimating the scale of resistance, but withdrawing all the coalition troops would only worsen matters. Mr D'Alema's request would, in my view, be surrendering to terrorism.

Syria and Iran have also been extremely unhelpful in allowing Islamist fighters to infiltrate Iraq from their territories. I welcome Commissioner Patten's allocation of EUR 300 million in 2003-04 to rebuild Iraq. His characteristic eloquence will be sadly missed on all sides of this House. I call upon Member States who oppose the war - such as France and Germany - to put this behind them now and support new Nato initiatives to build up security in Iraq. After all, we all share a common interest in fighting international terrorism. By kidnapping two French journalists, Islamic terrorists have not respected French neutrality, instead blaming France for defending its understandable and much cherished secularism by its banning of the veil in its schools.

I pray now for the release of all hostages. No stone should left unturned to achieve this objective.