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Tuesday, 27 March 1984
Page: 695


Senator ROBERT RAY —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Australian Government taken any action to condemn the use of chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war? Secondly, what steps does the Government intend to take to ensure that such chemical weapons are outlawed?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, has made a number of public statements today since the report to the United Nations Secretary-General was released in New York yesterday, 26 March; that is, the report of a team of experts, including Australian defence scientist, Dr Peter Dunn, who was sent to Iran to investigate reports that chemical weapons had been used in the Iran-Iraq war. That report concluded, as honourable senators will be aware, that two chemical agents, sulphur mustard and tabun, have been used in the areas visited by the experts. Sulphur mustard is a blistering agent which was used widely in World War I and was responsible for the majority of gas casualties in that war. Tabun is a chemical weapon developed by nazi Germany during the Second World War. It is an extremely lethal nerve agent which kills with a quite horrific and agonising effect.

It is the firm view of the Government, as would no doubt be expected, that there can be no justification whatever for the use of these barbaric weapons, which constitutes a clear breach of international law. Both Iraq and Iran, as well as Australia, are parties to the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits the use of chemical weapons. The Minister for Foreign Affairs also briefs me that he has instructed his Department to raise the whole question once more with the Iraqi Government in the light of the United Nations report, and Australia's missions to the United Nations and elsewhere will also be initiating urgent consultation on what measures the international community can take against further use of these weapons.