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Transcript of news conference, Maritime Headquarters, HMAS Kuttabul, Sydney

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JOURNALIST: How well are the allies going in the ground war?

PM: Well I said out there on the information that I have been given this morning before I came here, it does appear that all the reports of the success seem well founded and if

anything, the ground offensive is going even better than was expected.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned in your speech the grave consequences that face Iraq now that the ground war's started. What do you think they'll be?

PM: Well the longer they take to come to their senses and surrender the graver they are. They will see a significantly greater degradation of their armed forces and the longer that the air bombardment associated with the campaign goes on the more there will be a destruction of

infrastructure. So in everyone's interests there just has to be a hope that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and realise that in the interests of his country and of his people he should comply with the requirements of the United Nations.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, are you satisfied that Saddam Hussein was given the time and the opportunity to quit Kuwait?

PM: Well more importantly than the fact that I am satisfied - which I am - is the fact that at the United Nations Security Council no-one was prepared to accept the proposition as it stood.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the aim must now be to crush the Iraqi army ... future security in the Gulf?

PM: Well the aim is to get Iraq out of Kuwait. The longer that takes the more likely it is that that will be the case - that the Iraqi armed forces will be crushed. There has been a very significant degradation of the Iraqi armed capacity already but the longer the war goes on the more that will be the case.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the push will be long and drawn out?



PM: I tend to be on the more optimistic side. As I said yesterday, I think it'll be weeks rather than months.

JOURNALIST: ... to boost our commitment now that a ground war is underway?

PM: I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST: Are you under any pressure -PM: No. None at all.

JOURNALIST: ... the Australian ships may be moving further north. Do you have any more information about what role they are playing at this stage?

PM: Well they are still in the same position and the same role as they have been up to this stage. All I said yesterday that according to what I've said from my first announcement, they could be associated with amphibious operations if they take place.

JOURNALIST: Would Australia have any say in that decision?

PM: I have made it quite clear what the position is. They are, in operational terms, under the control of the United States commander but they remain under Australian national command.

JOURNALIST: Do you expect much contact with Mr Bush in the next few days?

PM: I don't know that it's the next few days. The relationship that I've had with various leaders - President Bush, John Major, Prime Minister Rocard and France has been very good. We've been in fairly consistent communication. But I have no particular plan or expectation of talking to the President in the next couple of days.

JOURNALIST: Could the war be over in days rather than weeks

PM: Well that is - you say could it be? It could be over, you know, in the next hour if the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, were to say that's it. Now by any rational assessment of what's happened to this point that's the decision he made. But you've got to ask yourself

increasingly whether you're dealing with a rational man.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any information that allied commandos are already in Kuwait?

PM: I'm not going to comment on the particularities of that sort of question.