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Peace is our most important role.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats

April 13, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/ 225

Peace Is Our Most Important Role

The Australian Democrats today urged the Howard Government not to just accept the latest US proposals for Iraq, but ensure that responsibility for establishing a post-war administration in Iraq is handed over to the United Nations.

As thousands of people marched today at Palm Sunday Rallies for Peace, Democrats’ Leader Senator Andrew Bartlett said establishing and keeping peace in Iraq amid the chaotic aftermath of war was essential and Australians must play a vital role.

“Over the next few weeks we will witness more real effects of this war,” Senator Bartlett said.

“Our position on what should take place now is clear: the Democrats did not want Australian troops involved in the war in the first place, but the Howard Government sent our forces and refused all calls to return our military personnel home. Now we want Australian troops involved in conflict withdrawn from the US-led coalition and brought home,” Senator Bartlett said.

“We believe the United Nations, not the US, must be handed responsibility for the post-war administration in Iraq.

“And Australians who were not at the frontline of the conflict, including troops aboard the HMAS Sydney which is still travelling to the Gulf, must be involved in maintaining the peace and ensuring humanitarian aid can get through.

“Australian forces are expert in mine clearing, and will be needed to defuse unexploded cluster bombs used by US and British troops. Australia is also expert at peacekeeping missions.

“Providing aid and keeping the peace are now the appropriate roles for Australia. And we must stand up to the US and demand the United Nations be given responsibility for overseeing the transformation of post-war Iraq, to give the Iraqi people every chance of building a strong and democratic nation.”

Senator Bartlett said Iraqi refugees in Australia must not be forced to return to the destruction of their homeland.

“Assistance packages being considered by the Government are helpful for people who want to go back,” Senator Bartlett said.

“But none of the Iraqi refugees who fled to Australia to escape the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s regime and remain fearful of returning to a country collapsing into chaos should be forced by this Government to go back.”

For interview with Senator Bartlett, please call Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649