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Downer 'can't recall' AWB warnings -

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(generated from captions) the Cole inquiry today, Alexander Downer has fronted telling the Commission the UN had ultimate responsibility Iraq, not his Department. for enforcing sanctions against Mark Vaile And while the Trade Minister yesterday, was at times tense and uncomfortable Mr Downer appeared relaxed, with his inquisitors. at one point joking had a familiar ring, But his evidence that he couldn't recollect the Foreign Minister testifying AWB was paying kickbacks. details of cables warning claiming he's been inconsistent. But that evidence has the Opposition Michael Edwards has this report. to avoid these lookalikes The Foreign Minister managed outside the Cole inquiry... and the gathering media I thought I was your favourite. by a side entrance. ..entering the building a series of diplomatic cables On the witness stand he dealt with about kickbacks allegations warning the Government from 2000 onwards. he had no recollection of them. Mr Downer said about his memory, he conceded: When asked under cross-examination why there was no action taken He was asked specifically in January 2000 on an initial warning about Canadian kickback allegations from American officials and others containing information about inflated contracts. on all occasions. AWB strenuously denied the claims this wasn't the only thing Mr Downer said to not follow up the claims on. he based his decision But the cross-examination continued

took no further action. as to why his department Mr Downer replied: for scrutinising the wheat contracts Mr Downer testified responsibility didn't lie with his department. was responsible He said the United Nations the kickbacks. for failing to detect Mr Downer was also questioned last year about why he felt relaxed in June paid by AWB after being briefed about the fees to trucking company, Alia. Mr Downer responded. During three hours of testimony, Mr Downer came across as a much more confident and self-assured witness than his colleague Mark Vaile. He justified his skepticism of the initial kickbacks allegations

and defended his department's handling of the situation, saying it did a good job. The Opposition says both ministers have dodged their responsibilities. We do know that the bribes, the dollars, stopped with Saddam Hussein, but the buck stopped with the Australian ministers. And those ministers now seek to evade their responsibility. They cannot do it. Mr Downer made a quick departure to avoid commenting to the media. Tomorrow, it will be known if the Prime Minister John Howard will be called to give evidence on Thursday. Michael Edwards, Lateline. The Clerk of the Senate