Anti-war MEP’s Iraq visit ‘blocked’

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Anti-war MEP’s Iraq visit ‘blocked’

Jun 1 2004

Martin Shipton, The Western Mail

AN ANTI-WAR Euro MP has criticised the Foreign Office for double standards after she was forced to cancel a planned visit to Iraq.

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans says the Foreign Office warned her she was likely to be killed if she visited British-occupied southern Iraq, and refused to facilitate a trip therae.

Yet, she pointed out, Cynon Valley’s pro-war Labour MP Ann Clwyd had received every assistance when she visited Baghdad’s notorious Al Ghraib prison.

Ms Evans raised the issue during a trip to the Carmarthenshire home of Plaid Cymru’s honorary president Gwynfor Evans, who experienced similar problems when seeking to visit Vietnam 38 years ago as an anti-war campaigner.

“Of course I would not want to visit somewhere if my life was in serious danger,” said Ms Evans. “But the Foreign Office was very happy to facilitate Ann Clwyd’s trip to Baghdad.

“I believe I was refused assistance by the Foreign Office because of my opposition to the war.”

Ms Evans, who is also chair of CND Cymru, said she had visited a hospital in Basra before the war, where she had met people who were suffering the effects of exposure to depleted uranium at the time of the first Gulf War.

“People there also told me how it was not possible to decontaminate the land as the materials required could not be imported because of the sanctions imposed on Iraq. It would be very interesting to see the latest situation in the hospital after the extensive use of depleted uranium last year.

“There was a lot of interest in the trip and TV journalists were planning to make a documentary.”

Ms Evans said her peace campaigning had been inspired by Gwynfor Evans, now aged 91 and living in Llanybydder.

In 1966, when he was Plaid Cymru’s newly elected MP for Carmarthen, Mr Evans tried to gain admission to Vietnam as part of a “stop the bombing” protest. He was refused entry to the country, but participated in a protest outside an American base in Thailand.

The Foreign Office’s website says, “We advise against all but the most essential travel to Iraq.

“The security situation is dangerous and there continue to be widespread outbreaks of violence.”