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Transcript of news conference, Parliament House, Canberra

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JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, has any work been done on a firm timetable for that return?

PM: No. The position is this, that I want those ships and those forces to come home as soon as it is possible and is consistent with the terms of the cease-fire which are organised and in consistency with any decisions of the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: Does it hinge on sanctions continuing?

PM: Well, that may be a relevant consideration. But I repeat, we are there under and in terms of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and my desire and commitment to have these forces returned home as soon as possible will equally consistently be in terms of any decisions which the United Nations Security Council makes.

JOURNALIST: Has there been any sign in the last few hours since President Bush's televised address that there might be a positive response from Baghdad, and if there is not, who then becomes the target of coalition operations?

PM: Well, there hasn't, to my knowledge, yet been any sign but I'm confident that there will be. I think, even in the experience that we've had of dealing with this man, it seems to me now unlikely that he will not comply with the

conditions that have been laid down, of course totally reasonable conditions, which as you know apply to the return of prisoners of war, to the detainees of other nations, the identification of mines on land and at sea and of course the other United Nations resolutions. Because what you have now

is a clear position that the whole of the United Nations Security Council, with the exception of Cuba and Yemen have regarded the position that has been arrived as the appropriate one. So I would rather at this point operate on the basis and in the hope that he will at last comply with

these totally reasonable requirements.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if conditions had been laid down a couple of days ago for a cease-fire, could not a lot

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PM: What had -JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Very simple things were done from 2 August. They were always very simple things. There was no need for the loss of a single life. And those very simple things were that the Iraqi dictator should withdraw from Kuwait. That was a reasonable position from day one. That continued to be the case right up until the period that you are talking about,

that all that had to be done was that the resolutions of the United Nations had to be complied with. There was no way in which, not only according to my judgement or the judgement of President Bush, but according to the judgement of the overwhelming majority of the United Nations Security Council, that it could come to an end without those

conditions being satisfied.

JOURNALIST: What ... will Australia be taking in the ceaseĀ­ fire negotiations that President Bush foreshadowed within the next 48 hours?

PM: Those are negotiations at the military commanders level. We haven't got forces on the ground there. We wouldn't be directly involved in those negotiations.

JOURNALIST: What have we as a community learned militarily and politically from our involvement in this war?

PM: That's a broad question Dennis. I mean it's a very reasonable one. I can't do justice to the breadth of the question in the time available. But let me, if I can, go to what I think are some of the obvious considerations. You

split it into two parts, militarily and politically. Militarily, we have obviously learnt, as a world community, that the instruments of war have become infinitely

sophisticated and it would be my hope that any would-be aggressors would understand that there is a military capacity available not involving the use of nuclear weapons,

chemical weapons, biological weapons. There is now an increasing capacity available for an aggressor to be resisted. May I then go from that to the political point which I think follows from it. I think politically the basic point that we've learnt and for which as a world we

should rejoice, is that the United Nations has shown that it has the capacity, the will and the determination to act according to its foundation charter which, as I've had cause

to say in the Parliament of this nation, envisaged from its very foundation that in the event that an aggressor was not prepared to cease aggression by the processes of peaceful negotiation, then the United Nations would be prepared

ultimately to use force. In the end, I think, that is the major political lesson that we should learn from the events of the last few months and it's a lesson which should give

us all great joy. Because now that the United Nations has shown its preparedness in this way, as I've said in my prepared observations this afternoon, this should serve as warning beacon, I believe, to any would-be aggressor. May H 0 )

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finally make this point, that while it's not a lesson to be learned, it is a hope to be derived from the events of these last few months. And the hope is that that great co-ordination and co-operation which has been demonstrated

in war in the Gulf and which has brought the war quickly to an end is capable of being summoned to address the challenges of the peace.

JOURNALIST: Has George Bush spoken with you today, Prime Minister?

PM: No.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, should the world give any assistance to rebuilding the damage done in Iraq? Should that be dependent at all on the leadership of Iraq?

PM: Well what the United Nations has said about this is there is an obligation upon Iraq to - and that is one which arises, not from the resolution itself but the terms of that resolution 674 remind Iraq of the obligations which it has under international law. Iraq has an obligation to meet the cost of the damage which, by its action in war, it has

inflicted. Now having said that I don't put that in terms of saying that the world should not have a concern with seeing the restoration of a viable and peaceable Iraq. Because not only is that correct intrinsically in terms of us having a concern for seeing that those people do not in perpetuity have inflicted upon them the sins of their leader but obviously no settlement of the Middle East issues as a whole will be tenable or lasting with an Iraq which remains a festering sore.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you made the very good point in the House of Reps speech that one of the reasons why Australia joined the coalition was that there was an achievable result in sight. Does the degree of

achievability, if you like -PM: Does the degree of what?

JOURNALIST: Achievability of a result depend on what the United Nations will now do in cases like Cyprus and Lebanon where there are foreign countries in occupation?

PM: I guess it is the case that the events of the last few months will increase the activity of those who have a direct concern in those areas and they will seek to highlight it within the United Nations. Time will tell what attitudes

and decisions the United Nations will take in regard to those problems. I mean, I don't believe that we should overlook them. In regard to Cyprus you'll know that we've been at the forefront of countries which have tried to bring to world attention the iniquities of what has occurred there.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister

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PM: Calm down. There's plenty of time.

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to come back to a point that you touched on yesterday. That is ensuring that our wheat growers in particular don't lose out in the restructuring of sales to the Middle East in this post-war period. How are you going to do that?

PM: I have today been involved in the discussions at some length with officials on this issue. We are working out the way in which we will most effectively make our position known. May I say, not merely to the United States but as you know the problem is that the United States is reacting

to the policies and decisions of the Europeans. So I'm currently, you know right at this very day, have been involved in working out what's the best w e 're going to handle it.

JOURNALIST: Have you given any more thought to the idea of the mission to the United States at least to try to stop the worst damage that they're doing to our -PM: That's part of my consideration.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, what sort of damage now that Iraq's been defeated -PM: I'm sorry.

JOURNALIST: What sort of damage has been done to the Palestinian cause? Secondly, if weight's to be put on Israel in the wake of this conflict to do something about creating a homeland will Australia be lending its weight to

force the Israelis along that line?

PM: Well let me make these points. Firstly, what damage has been done to the cause of the Palestinians. I think you have to distinguish between the Palestinians and the PLO. I think the PLO leadership has done enormous damage to its credibility by the way it's conducted itself during this conflict. I doubt if there's anyone - including the most ardent supporters of the cause of the Palestinians who could possibly argue that - but I do make that distinction and as you know I have said from the beginning that in the post-war

situation one of the three major issues that has to be dealt with, I've talked about the security of Israel, I've talked about the rights of the Palestinians and I've talked about

Lebanon. Those issues remain to be dealt with. Despite the activity, the totally misguided and unacceptable activity of the leadership of the PLO, that does not negate the rights of the Palestinian people. Now, the second part of your question is very interesting. You talk about the obligation

upon Israel to create a homeland for the Palestinian people. Get your history right and I'll come to the obligations that remain upon Israel in this post-war situation. I'm not avoiding that but do get your history right. It wasn't

Israel which stopped the creation of a homeland for the Palestinians. From the whole period between 1948 and 1967,


for that 19 year period when they did not occupy those territories it was the deliberate and publicly stated intentions of the Arab states which stopped the creation of a homeland for the Palestinians. The territories in question were not under the control of Israel. In that whole period it was their intention not to create a homeland

for the Palestinians outside of Israel for the very simple reason that they envisaged the homeland for the Palestinians to encompass what was then the state of Israel. So having said that and you've got to get the history right that does not mean, and you should not imply from what I say there, that there are not obligations now upon Israel and upon its Arab neighbours. Those Arab neighbours, who for the period

from 1948 to 1967, denied the Palestinians a homeland and specifically and deliberately denied them a homeland, the Arab states and Israel together with other interested powers which includes the United States, includes I believe the

Soviet Union and the Europeans, they have to sit down together and address the issue of the rights of the Palestinians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke what does the ending of the war mean for the world economy, recessions in Western countries and oil supplies in crisis?

PM: Good question, and obviously impossible to be specific in one's answer. But I will make some observations which I think are relevant and perhaps helpful. As far as oil prices are concerned, you will have seen that during the course of the conflict oil prices have virtually gone back to what they were at the beginning of the conflict. At the beginning of the conflict oil prices were about $20US a barrel and they've gone down to below that. In the last few days they've come up a bit. So at the end of the conflict oil prices are not significantly different from what they were at the beginning. There has been very considerable destruction wreaked by Iraq upon the Kuwaiti oil production capacities of some 930 wells. It seems at least about 600 have been set on fire. That doesn't mean they have been destroyed but there 'll be a considerable amount of work to be done to restore the pre-war productive capacity of the Kuwaiti oil producing system. But as I noted earlier in the

conflict, there is firstly a position where there were abnormally high oil stocks around the world. Secondly, there was a capacity of other producers to increase their

production. So if you take all those things into account, we should not, in this post-war situation, have an economic difficulty created by spiralling oil prices. There is no reason to expect that. You then get onto the more difficult part of the question, what impact does now the end of the war have on the economies of the rest of the world? One would think that on balance the end of the war should be

helpful. It will remove uncertainty. No doubt there are a lot of investment decisions which were put on hold because of uncertainty about the war. With the war ended, that element of uncertainty should be removed so investment decisions which may not otherwise have been taken will now presumably be taken. Secondly, one could say that there is


obviously now an enormous amount of reconstruction that has to be undertaken in Kuwait and in the region. That will be some stimulus to activity. So on balance I would think that the end of the war must be a plus for our perceptions and judgements about the level of economic activity in the period ahead.

JOURNALIST: Could I just come back to the central issue. We all seem to have this -PM: What you regard as the central issue.

JOURNALIST: Well I would have thought this ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, sir, is probably the central issue -PM: Look, we're not on 7.30 now. Just calm down a bit, just calm down a bit.

JOURNALIST: What are the terms of this? I mean how long has he got to comply? Is it the 48 hours mentioned here in terms of putting the military commanders in the field or is it some other time that's not mentioned in President Reagan's address?

PM: ... I think it speaks for itself. You've got a position where he's said now here is this period of time in which, obviously, there has been a reasonable amount of work that's been done before this. I think there's a clear

expectation - and I'm saying this not on the basis of any information I have - but there is a clear anticipation that within the time-scale mentioned there will be this sort of response. What you've got to understand is that the President of the United States and in consultation with his

allies was not prepared to give this suspension - and that's what it is - until he had advice from his military commanders in the field that undertaking the suspension would not involve any risk to allied forces. Now I expect

that within the timescale that's been identified that the responses that are required will be forthcoming.

JOURNALIST: That's within 48 hours?

PM: I would think so. But if - let me say this, and I speak without any authority from the United States or any of the other allies - I guess the situation in reality would be that if within that 48 hours there was the beginning of real signs that there was compliance, then they are not going to resume in that position. In other words, the position of the United States and its allies and of the Security Council

all along has been: they want the war to come to an end; it must come to an end on the basis of the acceptance of the resolutions of the United Nations. And in terms of the

immediate ending of hostilities, those totally reasonable additional points have been made about the release of prisoners of war, about the release of people, basically Kuwaitis, who have been taken by departing Iraqi troops, the identification of mines. All those are issues, military issues involved, and necessarily involved, in the processes

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of ending hostilities. And I would expect that within the time mentioned that there would be the appropriate responses.

JOURNALIST: Coming back to the question of wheat sales. How soon will you allow the Australian Wheat Board to commence commercial negotiations with the Government in Baghdad?

PM: Obviously that's a decision that's to be taken in the light of any decisions by the United Nations Security Council. I mean obviously the absence, the absence of sales and commercial dealings with Iraq have flowed from the decision of the United Nations Security Council. As soon as decisions are taken by the United Nations Security Council which release us from the obligation not to have such dealings then we'd be straight into it. OK, one more.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, do you believe Saddam Hussein should now be tried as a war criminal?

PM: That question's been asked of me before and I simply repeat the answer I gave before. That's a matter which will be, you know, considered by the - perhaps considered by the United Nations. It's a matter for them. The war has been conducted under the auspices and under the decisions of the United Nations Security Council and it's for that body to make decisions in that area.

JOURNALIST: If Saddam Hussein does not adhere to one or more of these commitments, what do you then believe to be the correct course of action for the allies to take or how far should they go?

PM: Well as I said yesterday, I mean even in those circumstances there are limits to the action that would be taken. If no objective under the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council or in my judgement in the mind of

the allies to push this war into the occupation of Iraq, what would continue to be done if they did not meet the necessary conditions is that there would be some continuation of the attack upon their forces. There may be

further raids upon more of their installations. -


PM: Well in Kuwait but I mean they were doing that within Iraq before the land war.

JOURNALIST: What about moving out further north ...

PM: I made it quite clear yesterday that I don't believe there would be any intention to make a substantial incursion into Iraq. There is no point or purpose in that.

JOURNALIST: ... Mr Hawke, the resolution 678 which calls for any necessary means to ensure international peace and


security in the area. Could it be that the allies would interpret that as seeing the end of Hussein and his Government eventually if -PM: I don't believe so. Even if these latest stages - I mean you've had no position expressed by any leader - either President Bush or Major or Rocard, Mitterand, any of the

leaders - none of them have expressed the view that the toppling of the regime is part of the military purposes under the United Nations Security Council resolution. I believe someone pointed out to me well you know, what about

Jim Baker, he'd said something contrary but I, you know, looked it up. What Baker in fact said is that it would be politically desirable but he didn't relate it to being part of the military objective. In other words, they're not going to go take the tanks up to Baghdad and topple Iraq under the United Nations - topple Hussein under the United Nations Security resolution. Obviously I think it would be a pretty widely held view in the international community that the interests of the people of Iraq, let alone the interests of the people in the region, would be best served by the people of Kuwait - the people of Iraq getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But that has not been and has not been stated to be a military objective of action under the United Nations Security resolutions. And that is right because it

is quite clearly not an appropriate objective - a military objective - under those resolutions.

JOURNALIST: On reconstruction Mr Hawke, would you expect Australian firms, and I suppose Telecom's particularly well placed given its ... in Saudi, to actively try and get, you know, a significant part of the -

PM: This is not a question of expectation. We are already looking at how best we will be able to participate in the reconstruction of Kuwait. We are well known in the region and you mention telecommunications. We have very, very many people in Saudi Arabia as a result of the fact that Telecom won a very significant contract there to modernise their

telecommunications system. So we are well known, our capacity is recognised and I hope that in that and in other areas of activity Australian firms with competence - and there are many of them - well we'll have a part to play.

JOURNALIST: Is the Government giving them help?

PM: Well yes we are. I have before me a paper which suggests which we should best go about this and w e '11 have some announcements to make about that in the near future.