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Mr Downer must lead, not follow, on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

MEDIA RELEASE

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

MR DOWNER MUST LEAD, NOT FOLLOW, ON THE POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION OF IRAQ

Foreign Minister Downer must take a clear proposal to Washington on the post-war UN administration of Iraq.

Mr Downer should also exercise Australia’s international diplomatic leverage to forge a compromise agreement between the reluctant Europeans on the one hand and the UN-sceptic Americans on the other.

All sides will need convincing of the merits of an interim UN administration, backed up by peacekeepers, to be the best vehicle for the post-war challenges facing Iraq. Broadly these challenges are:

• The delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance; • Economic reconstruction; and • An appropriate act of political self-determination.

Some in Europe don’t want to have a bar of post-war Iraq. Some in the United States don’t want to have a bar of the UN in post-war Iraq.

Australia’s national interests lie in the rapid establishment of an interim UN administration under a fresh resolution of the UN Security Council.

This would be the best vehicle for maximising global contributions to the emergency humanitarian and economic reconstruction tasks that will face Iraq. This will also be the best and most neutral mechanism for organising an Iraqi electoral process through which a new Iraqi government could be determined.

A long-term US military garrison located in the heart of the Middle East is neither in Australia nor America’s interests.

Up until now, Mr Howard and Mr Downer have resolutely sat on the fence on this matter. They have spoken vaguely about “UN involvement” and a “UN role”. And they have deliberately avoided answering the central question of who should be responsible for the political administration of Iraq after the war.

It is time to stop playing duck and weave. It is time to take a firm position. As one of the three combatant states in Iraq it is time to take responsibility for negotiating the best post-war outcome for the Iraqi people. That is, an interim UN administration of the type we saw recently in East Timor.

Ends 31 March 2003

For further information contact: Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823