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Shadow Minister questions validity of claims made by Prime Minister Howard in the lead-up to war against Iraq.

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Monday 7 July 2003

Shadow Minister questions validity of claims made by Prime Minister Howard in the lead-up to war against Iraq


LINDA MOTTRAM: The Federal Opposition says that these developments in the United States are stunning and it says it raises issues for the Prime Minister in his claims in the lead up to war. 


Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd, says that in particular, John Howard should not have made an unqualified statement to Parliament in February this year that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.  


From Canberra, Louise Yaxley reports. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: It now appears there were significant differences between the US State Department and the CIA about Iraq. 


A former State Department official is quoted in Fairfax newspapers today saying the State Department saw no evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. 


In February this year, Mr Howard cited CIA intelligence analysis saying Iraq was trying to restart its nuclear program. 


Labor's Kevin Rudd says the Prime Minister should have told Parliament there was more than one view within the US administration. 


KEVIN RUDD: If John Howard had in his possession dissenting views from the United States about Iraq's nuclear program, then he had a responsibility to put that dissenting information before the Australian public and the Australian Parliament.  


John Howard, when he made his key statement to Parliament on this, on the 4th of February 2003, had no equivocation, no qualification, in the remarks that he put to the Australian people, he simply spoke about the fact that Iraq was importing uranium from the African State of Niger, and that as a consequence Iraq's nuclear program was something to be feared by the rest of the world.  


That was the essence of his claim. What we now have is a clear statement from the United States State Department, a former senior employee, that that was simply not the case.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Australian Government says that most of its emphasis leading up to the action against Iraq was about chemical weapons and biological weapons and it wasn't suggesting that the nuclear weapons were ready to go.  


KEVIN RUDD: This is classic duck and weave on the part of John Howard, Prime Minister. We've seen it before when it came to his handling of the children overboard matter, where truth was thrown overboard by the Australian Government in the lead-up to the last election. We now see it again on this matter.  


If the nuclear aspect of Mr Howard's claim about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program was simply incorrect or the information upon which is was based was equivocal, then why did John Howard insert it into his key speech on the 4th of February to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people, advancing the case as to why his Government was going to war?  


LOUISE YAXLEY: A Spokesman for the Prime Minister says the latest claims are nothing new.  


LINDA MOTTRAM: Louise Yaxley reporting from Canberra.