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Government's use of Iraqi intelligence vidicated.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER FA31 1 March 2004

GOVERNMENT’S USE OF IRAQI INTELLIGENCE VINDICATED

The Parliamentary Joint Committee’s report on its Inquiry into intelligence on Iraq’s WMD vindicates the Government’s use of intelligence in stating the case for disarming Iraq.

The bipartisan report confirms that there was ‘no evidence that political pressure was applied to the [intelligence] agencies’. And the Committee agreed that ‘there was no overt pressure from Government to change assessments’.

The Government stands by its presentation of the case for disarming Iraq of its WMD capabilities. As the committee notes, the Government’s presentation of the evidence was consistent, moderate and measured. Ministers did not use highly emotive language.

Australian intelligence agencies agreed that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction before the war. Of course, they were not alone in this regard: the international community - and the Opposition - believed Iraq had WMD.

The only issue was whether Iraq should have been made to comply with mandatory UN Security Council resolutions requiring it to account for its WMD and related WMD capabilities.

On this point, the Government was right: evidence collected since the conflict shows that Saddam was pursuing WMD programs and that his regime was concealing these activities from UN inspectors.

Robust enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions was the only course of action that would ensure Saddam’s compliance once and for all.

This was the Parliamentary inquiry the opposition parties demanded.

It is now clear to all that the Government has been open and honest with the Australian people on this critical issue of national security.

The Government has cooperated with the Committee from the outset. It facilitated testimony from the Office of National Assessments and the Defence Intelligence Organisation, even though neither is covered by the Committee’s terms of reference.

The Government accepts the recommendations of the report, including the establishment of an independent assessment of the intelligence agencies. It will provide a considered response to the Committee’s report in due course. It will also set out the details of the independent inquiry at that time.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500/0419 206 890