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Fresh al Qaeda warning for Australia.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Ends.17 November 2003

FRESH AL QAEDA WARNING FOR AUSTRALIA

The Federal Opposition condemns the recent terrorist attack on Synagogues in Istanbul and regrets the loss of innocent life involved in these barbarous attacks.

The Opposition also condemns al Qaeda, which has stated its responsibility for these attacks. They are fundamental attacks on our common humanity.

The world cannot rest until al Qaeda and its associated terrorist organisations are eliminated - root and branch.

I agree with Mr Downer that Australian foreign policy should not be dictated by terrorists. But I disagree with Mr Downer’s failure to inform Australians of the British intelligence available to him prior to the Iraq war which stated that the war would increase the overall terrorist threat - not reduce it. In February 2003, the British Joint Intelligence Chiefs informed the Howard Government:

The JIC (that is the Joint Intelligence Committee which is made up of the British intelligence chiefs) assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.

But the Howard Government told the Australian people prior to the Iraq war that the war was necessary to reduce the overall terrorist threat. On 25 March 2003, John Howard told Parliament of his justification for his Government’s decision for war with Iraq:

I believe, and the government believes, that the action we have taken will over the medium to longer term reduce the likelihood of a massive terrorist attack on Australia. That is our view.

In other words, exactly the reverse of what British intelligence had told the Howard Government. Regrettably, British intelligence is being proven correct as al Qaeda-related terrorist activity increases both within Iraq - and elsewhere within the world.

A further implication of this apparent statement by al Qaeda lies with the security of Australian personnel currently in Iraq. Following my visit to Baghdad last week, I wrote to

the Prime Minister today requesting he undertake a formal review of the protective security arrangements for Australian personnel - given the recently released timetable for the formation of an interim Iraqi government and the fresh security implications arising from that fact.

To this end, there also reports today that al Qaeda claim has claimed responsibility for the 12 November homicide bombing in Nasariyah that killed 19 Italian police. This reinforces the importance of a fresh, overarching external review of the adequacy of existing security arrangements for our personnel in Iraq and the wider Middle East theatre of operation.

Ends

Further information: Kevin Rudd, MP 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan 0417 605 823