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Transcript of news conference, World Congress Centre, Melbourne

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JOURNALIST: First of all Mr Hawke have you been briefed on Moscow's peace plan?

PM: Not directly from Moscow but we have some understanding, really from the media. I mean, I haven't had a direct briefing. I've just been told by my people that there is some press report that one of Mr Gorbachev's assistants has indicated that he believes that Iraq was looking for a way out now. All I want to say about that, as I've said right through, is that I hope that's the case. We don't want this war to be going on one day longer than necessary. I understand that Mr Gorbachev has not wavered in what he said to the Iraqis from what is the basic requirement. That is that there must be an unconditional withdrawal. Now if he's done that and I believe he would have and there is some indication that they are responding to that as I hope they will then no-one will be more pleased than myself. But I repeat there can be no question but that if it's going to come to an end it must be on the basis of Iraq accepting unconditionally what the United Nations required and that is the withdrawal of their forces from Kuwait.

JOURNALIST: Mr Aziz's statement that Iraq does in fact -PM: I'm sorry.

JOURNALIST: Mr Aziz's statement that Iraq does in fact want to pull out of Kuwait. Do you think it's a genuine sentiment? Do you think Iraq's had enough?

PM: There's only one way that in the end you can answer that question. That is if they agree to withdraw. They should've had enough. They shouldn't have been in there at all. They should now, if they apply rational, intelligent analysis, have no doubt of the total continuing commitment of the allied

forces operating under United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 to see this thing through. That can only be at a continuing serious cost to the Iraqi armed forces and to the military infrastructure of the country. Now if he has any concern at all for his people he must withdraw.

JOURNALIST: I understand the peace proposal does include no reprisals or punishment for Iraq. Do you think that makes it harder for the allies to accept that proposal? * COMMONWEALTH



PM: President Bush has made it quite clear that he's not seeking punishment or reprisal. The aims of the allies have been clear from the beginning - they haven't altered. That is the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. That has been the aim and the restoration of the legitimate government of Kuwait. When those things are done then it is possible, and

indeed desirable in those circumstances, that the world can address a range of the issues in the region but there can be no linkage.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you one more question Mr Hawke?

PM: Ok. One more. You've had a fair go haven't you?

JOURNALIST: What about the question of war crimes? Do you think at the end of the war there is a question - President Saddam Hussein should be tried for war crimes?

PM: I'm not going to that issue. I would hope that the Iraqi people, in a civilised and peaceful way, may draw their own conclusions about where their best interests lie.

JOURNALIST: It's not for the allies?

PM: I wouldn't think so.

JOURNALIST: Just before you go. In light of -PM: There is someone else there - good.

JOURNALIST: In light of today's announcements by the State Opposition, how do you see the future of the Kirner Government?

PM: Would it be rude if I said to you I have no idea what the State Opposition in Victoria has had to say today. I haven't found very interesting in the past what they've had to say about anything and I don't make a practise of keeping myself informed on a daily, hourly regular basis of what the State Opposition is saying. What is it they've said?

JOURNALIST: The Opposition has threatened to block all legislation in Victoria that it doesn't consider in the public interest. Do you think Mrs Kirner can tough that out?

PM: Which they mean in their interest.

JOURNALIST: They mean all new taxes and charges, all assets sales, all revenue raising measures. Can Mrs Kirner tough that out?

PM: Well that's a matter for Mrs Kirner and her colleagues. I have a great deal of respect for the courage and the tenacity of Joan Kirner. I think that right across the political spectrum whatever people may say they can't question her tenacity and her courage. I'm sure she'll deal with this in the way that she thinks is most appropriate.