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Straw updates MPs on Iraq

Straw updates MPs on Iraq

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today updated MPs on the latest situation in Iraq.

He said the launch of the Iraqi Governing Council on Sunday was an important step towards establishing a sovereign Iraqi government. The Council - made up of 25 members from across Iraq's religious and ethnic spectrum - will be involved in all decisions made by the Coalition Provisional Authority and will determine the national budget for next year. It will play a key part in drawing up the constitution paving the way for the election of an Iraqi government.

Mr Straw said the contrast with Saddam's Ba'athist regime could not be starker: "It will govern by consent, not terror".

He paid tribute to the Coalition forces who have lost their lives since the end of major combat operations in the country. MPs also heard about progress in delivering essential services to the Iraqi people:

34 police stations are now open in Baghdad 24 hours a day

9,000 police officers have returned to duty

all 240 hospitals in Iraq are operational

98 per cent of schools are open

Baghdad is receiving only 70 to 90 per cent of its pre-war water supply

more Iraqis have access to electricity supplies than before the war

On the debate about the legitimacy of the war, Mr Straw said "it is entirely right that Parliament should conduct its own inquiries into the decision to go to war". But he stressed that the evidence upon which the decision had been taken "was overwhelmingly from open sources and laid before the House".

The Foreign Secretary went on to say that the scale of the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime becomes clearer by the day. Tens of thousands of bodies have so far been unearthed in mass graves, and the Red Cross estimates that 30,000 Iraqis are 'missing'.

"The dead and the missing are the most painful reminder of Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship. They should also become the greatest symbol of our determination to give Iraq the future its people so richly deserve."

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