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Gov't washes its hands of responsibility for AWB payments to Saddam - despite DFAT involvement in contract process.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Security

GOV’T WASHES ITS HANDS OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR AWB PAYMENTS TO SADDAM - DESPITE DFAT INVOLVEMENT IN CONTRACT PROCESS

In Parliament today, John Howard and Alexander Downer washed their hands of responsibility for the $A300 million in “side payments” that the AWB paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Mr Howard and Mr Downer today attempted to place blame at the feet of the United Nations and away from their Government. This is despite the fact that:

• DFAT Canberra received signed contracts between the AWB and the Iraq Grain Board; • DFAT Canberra submitted those contracts to the Australia Mission to the United Nations in New York; • DFAT's UN Mission then provided those contracts to the UN Office of

Iraq Program; and • DFAT Canberra then notified the AWB in Australia once the contracts had been approved by the UN.

Correspondence between the AWB and the Volcker Inquiry outlines in detail the contract making process between it and the Iraq Grain Board. This correspondence outlines the role DFAT played in facilitating the UN approval of AWB’s contracts.

Mr Howard today announced an inquiry into this matter.

If Mr Howard’s inquiry is to have legitimacy it must include in its terms of reference scope for investigation of the Government’s own involvement in the facilitation of contracts between AWB and the Iraq Grain Board, as well as the Australian Government’s adherence or otherwise to Security Council resolution 661.

To exclude either of these critical areas will render the inquiry a complete whitewash.

Ends. 31 October 2005

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823