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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15914


Mr Rudd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 19 March 2003:

(1) Can he provide details (dates, time, locations, with whom and content) of his dealings with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the matter of Iraqi refugees arising from a potential conflict with Iraq and will he advise whether these meetings included discussion of the number of refugees Australia would accept from Iraq in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.

(2) Can he provide details (dates, time, locations, with whom and content) of his dealings with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) on the matter of Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons arising from a conflict with Iraq.

(3) Can he provide details (dates, time, locations, with whom and content) of his dealings with different UN bodies regarding Australia's involvement in post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

(4) On how many occasions has he spoken in support of regime change in Iraq.

(5) On how many occasions has he, or his office, had direct dealings with the Iraqi Embassy since March 2002.

(6) Can he provide details of the Government's assessment of: (a) the number of (i) nuclear weapons warheads, (ii) chemical weapons warheads and (iii) biological weapons warheads, and (b) the number of missiles including: (i) the type, and (ii) their range, in Iraq's possession.


Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The following is the response to the honourable member's question:

(1) I met Mr Eric Morris, Director and Special Adviser to the High Commissioner, New York Liaison Office of UNHCR, at lunch on 3 April 2003 at the residence of the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. We discussed the humanitarian situation in Iraq and there was no discussion of whether and how many refugees Australia might accept from Iraq should there be mass outflows from Iraq.

(2) I met Mr Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, UNOCHA at lunch on 3 April 2003 at the residence of the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. We discussed the humanitarian situation in Iraq. There was no specific discussion on Iraqi refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq, other than to note that, to date, the numbers in both categories had been much lower than some commentators had predicted.

(3) I discussed post-conflict arrangements in Iraq during a call on H E Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN in his office in New York at 12 noon on 3 April 2003. I discussed Iraq's reconstruction needs at a lunch on 3 April 2003 at the residence of the Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York with Mr Mark Malloch-Brown, Administrator, UN Development Programme and Mr Benon Sevan, Executive Director, Office of the Iraq Programme.

(4) The Government's concern was and remains the disarmament of Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Regime change was not our objective.

(5) On 24 October 2002 the Iraqi Charge d'Affaires called on me at my office in Parliament House with other Arab diplomatic representatives.

(6) The Government cannot provide a precise response on the details sought because Saddam Hussein's regime failed to cooperate with the United Nations in declaring its weapons of mass destruction and failed to facilitate the work of UN inspectors. The Government has drawn its information about the status of Iraq's WMD from publicly available sources such as UN documents and documents produced by other governments and classified intelligence sources. No source provides a precise accounting, although there is a common view that Saddam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapon warheads. A comprehensive statement of the UN's assessments of Iraq's chemical, biological and missile capabilities is set out in UNMOVIC's document of 6 March 2003 Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programmes (available on www.un.org).