Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FED:Higher priorities than new Iraq inquiry

AAP General News (Australia)
FED:Higher priorities than new Iraq inquiry

CANBERRA, Aug 11 AAP - Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has dismissed a call for
a fresh inquiry into the Iraq war, saying there are more important priorities for Australia.

The push for a new examination of Australia's part in the conflict comes from independent
MP Andrew Wilkie who says there needs to be a full explanation of the reasons for our

He wants former prime minister John Howard and his then foreign minister Alexander
Downer to front any inquiry.

Mr Abbott said the war in Iraq started eight years ago and everyone had moved on.

"Frankly I think there are higher priorities for the Australian government and the
Australian people at this time," he told reporters in Perth.

But any inquiry should look further than government ministers of the time.

"If we are talking about weapons of mass destruction, it was Kevin Rudd who as shadow
foreign minister was more adamant than anyone that Saddam Hussein did have weapons of
mass destruction," he said.

Mr Downer is standing by the Howard government's decision to send troops to Iraq.

The people of Iraq now had their freedom and lived in relative peace in a democratic society.

"So at least one part of the Arab world has found freedom and we helped give them that
freedom," he told ABC Radio.

Mr Wilkie's call comes a few days after the last Australian troops departed Iraq.

Combat troops withdrew in mid-2008 but a security detachment remained in Baghdad to
guard Australian diplomats.

Security responsibility has now been handed over to private security company Unity
Resources Group and the last 17 soldiers withdrew on August 6.

Mr Wilkie, a former army officer and intelligence analyst, quit the Office of National
Assessments in March 2003, publicly disputing claims Iraq posed a clear risk through its
possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Mr Wilkie said there needed to be a proper inquiry with very broad terms of reference
which looked at the behaviour of the political leadership.

"While the intelligence agencies did make some serious errors at the time, they were
never responsible for the war," he said.

Mr Wilkie said there had been two inquiries into intelligence agencies and intelligence
supplied to the government about Iraq's alleged possession of WMD.

But no light had ever been shone on the behaviour of Mr Howard and Mr Downer.

"They have never been made to sit down and explain why over many, many weeks and months
arguing about WMD and terrorism when it was very quickly apparent that the official case
for war was a lie," he said.

AAP mb/rl/jnb/nb


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