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Transcript of interview with Jana Wendt, A Current Affair



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^AUSTRALIA,^

P R IM E M IN IS T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH JANA WENDT, A CURRENT AFFAIR, 25 FEBRUARY 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

WENDT: Mr Hawke, thank you very much for your time this evening.

PM: Pleasure Jana.

WENDT: I understand that you've just had a briefing. Is there anything that you can tell us about the progress of the campaign.

PM: I think I can say this with assurance that the campaign is going even better than the more optimistic expectations at the beginning of the campaign but it's right to say that it is early days yet, Jana.

WENDT: Mr Hawke, I notice national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, with whom I know you have spoken, has said that there's too much optimism around. Do you think there's a

danger of that?

PM: I think it's always sensible when human lives are involved and the possibility of casualties not to give any sense of euphoria because any loss of life is to be deplored and euphoria is not appropriate in those circumstances.

WENDT: Prime Minister, let me ask you to speculate a little here. What do you think would have been the consequences if the United States and the allies had accepted the terms of the last Soviet/Iraqi peace plan?

PM: They would have been disastrous because the central point, point four, in that involved an acceptance of this position, that is that after the withdrawal of the Iraqi forces all the United Nations Security Council resolutions would cease to exist including these two 671 and 672 each of which went to the question, on the one hand, of asserting

the sovereignty of Kuwait and secondly the repudiation of the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq. Totally unacceptable and, most importantly, known in the end by President Gorbachev not to be acceptable. It was not a proposition which was in

the end pushed by the Soviet Union in the Security Council.

WENDT: Well you have said that the Soviets nevertheless played a positive role in all of this but do you believe

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that in broking for peace their aims were the same as the aims of the United States and the allies?

PM: No, they wouldn't have been exactly the same of course and none of us are naive enough to say that. They had the situation of a conflict on their southern border, as it were. They had a situation of a military body in the Soviet Union which were closely associated with the Iraqi military hierarchy, a system of Soviet emplaced systems in Iraq which have been sorely tested so their considerations by definition were not exactly the same. But let me say this, that I share completely President Bush's view, which he personally expressed to Mikhail Gorbachev, that he appreciated the attempts that the President had made but in the end President Gorbachev knew the limitations of the man with whom he was dealing, that is Saddam Hussein.

WENDT: Mr Hawke, why shouldn't the fact that President Bush and the allies bypassed that Soviet peace initiative and that President Bush presented his own ultimatum to Saddam Hussein be seen as a slap in the face to the leader of Iraq

- and to the leader of the Soviet Union?

PM: A slap in the face to the - they are not in one and the same position. Of course, it is a total repudiation of the totally unrealistically position of Saddam Hussein, who from day one has shown - and to his credit, the only thing I can

say to his credit, he hasn't hidden the fact that as far as he's concerned Kuwait is not negotiable. As far as he's concerned he would not repudiate his claim to Kuwait. In the case of Mikhail Gorbachev I think he was sincerely trying to see if there was a possibility of getting a peaceful resolution. in the end he accepted there wasn't

that chance.

WENDT: You believe in Gorbachev's good faith in this, do you?

PM: Yes. I guess, more importantly than whether Bob Hawke believes in his good faith it is that the President of the United States, who has been dealing with him and had a 90 minute conversation with him and Jim Baker had two

conversations in the final 24 hours before the invasion, two conversations with Bessmertnyka the Foreign Minister. They believe in the good faith of Gorbachev.

WENDT: There has been reports today from Israeli Soviet experts that say that the USSR is double dealing here, that while publicly condemning Saddam Hussein they are privately assisting his war effort. Does that surprise you, that possibility?

PM: It only has any substance in the sense that the major supplier of armour and weaponry to the Iraqi regime was the Soviet Union but once the war started they made it clear,-in word and in deed, that they repudiate the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq. I don't think that it's possible to say of

President Gorbachev when President Bush, who's been the one

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who has spoken with him at length, I don't think it's possible then to question his integrity. Then if the President of the United States who has dealt with him accepts his integrity and his good intentions then I would

say that that ought to be good enough for the rest of the world.

WENDT: But the allies have been deceived before clearly about, for instance, Saddam Hussein. They didn't believe at one stage that he had such aggressive intentions.

PM: No but you're wanting to put Gorbachev and Saddam Hussein in one and the same basket. I refuse to. It's impossible.

WENDT: You and other world leaders have spoken about a new world order. Do you believe, as a result of what's occurred now, that we in our region will be able to rely on international action against aggressors in our own region?

PM: That's a good question and I want to make two points about it. The first is, let me make it clear, when I and others have spoken about a new world order what w e 've been saying is this; that with the end of the Cold War and the

threat of nuclear holocaust arising from the possibility of conflict between the two superpowers that has created the possibility of a new world order wherein the energies, the time, the material resources of the nations of the world could be, with greater confidence, devoted to non-belligerent purposes. And that there therefore could be a situation within which, if the possibility of conflict were to arise between nations, the authority of the United Nations in that context would be available to ensure that

such conflict would be resolved peacefully. That's the possibility of a new world order that we've been talking about. Now, in regard to what flows from that in our region one of the fundamental reasons why I instinctively and then,

if you like, through reasoning saw immediately what Australia's right response was. That within the possibility of that new world order Australia as much as any nation in

the world wanted to have assuredness that if there was a possibility of aggression against Australia for instance at some time in the future, we wanted to have the knowledge

that within that new world framework that an aggressor would not be tolerated and that the forces of the world community through the United Nations would be available.

WENDT: And you are confident that if tomorrow Australia faced a threat that those forces would come into play?

PM: Yes, indeed. May I make this point, there have been many people since I have assumed prime ministership who have questioned, rather raucously some of them, the commitment I have to the alliance relationship with the United States. I would have thought that those people should be doing some very serious rethinking. They have said the United States

would not be a reliable partner. Well I think that the

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United States has shown a preparedness, under the United Nations, to honour its obligations.

WENDT: Mr Hawke, let me just take you for a moment back to the Gulf. Do you believe that security and peace in the Middle East is possible while Saddam Hussein stays in power?

PM: Well I think the correct answer to that is that it's less likely while he's there because he is an unreconstructed belligerent. It's not just this war, he fought Iran for eight years. Let me make this point, let's get rid of this nonsense that he's been acting on behalf of the Palestinians or trying to pursue their interests. He wasn't pursuing the interests of the Palestinians when he waged war against Iran for eight years. He wasn't protecting the interests of the Palestinians when he

attempted to erase Kuwait, a country which had consistently and very substantially to the tune of more than $50 million a year supported the Palestinians. Now while he's there, a belligerent like that is there, it is more difficult. But as to the substance of your question, I think we have to say as an intelligent world community that bringing peace and stability and security to the Middle East is not going to be easy but it is achievable with good will.

WENDT: Prime Minister, we are really running out of time but I'd like to ask you this final question. UN resolution 678 talks about the preservation of international peace and security. Do you think that it gives the allies a mandate to go after Saddam Hussein?

PM: No. The mandate of the United Nations is to get Iraq out of Kuwait. That is and remains the mandate and more importantly in my judgement it remains the intention of the

allies.

WENDT: And you don't think, as US Secretary of State Baker has said tonight that it is the clear implication of that resolution that they may go after him?

PM: Well I saw Cheney not Baker on your program.

WENDT: Mr Baker has said it this evening.

PM: Well they may do. He may be saying that. My belief is that it is the intention of the United States, it's certainly the intention of the allies, it's certainly the intention of Australia to adhere to the stated intention

from the beginning and that is to get Iraq out of Kuwait.

WENDT: Prime Minister I appreciate your time. Thank you.

PM: Thank you very much.

ends