Howard on defensive over Iraq war

Prime Minister John Howard says he would make the same decision to send Australia to war against Iraq if he was ever in the same position again.

The statement comes after a bi-partisan parliamentary inquiry found the Federal Government and the Office of National Assessments overstated the threat posed by Iraq’s alleged banned weapons.

Mr Howard says he has no apologies to make for the government’s actions.

He also says even if weapons of mass destruction are never found in Iraq, Australia did the right thing by joining the United States-led invasion.

“The action taken by the Government to join the coalition of the willing was soundly based in international law,” Mr Howard said.

“The legal basis of of our involvement with the Coalition of the Willing was the serial non-compliance by Iraq with successive resolutions of the United Nations.”

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has again denied the Federal Government put political pressure on the ONA to produce intelligence suggesting Iraq had banned weapons.

The inquiry cleared the government of political interference with the intelligence assessment process.

But questions remain as to why, on September the 13, 2002, the ONA became much more definitive in its assessment that IRAQ had chemical and biological weapons.

Meanwhile, the federal Labor Party is demanding the Federal Government consult it on choosing the head of an independent inquiry into Australia’s spy agencies.

Liberal Party backbencher David Jull has said Labor should be consulted on who will head the inquiry into the Government’s handling of pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Mr Jull chairs the bipartisan joint parliamentary committee on intelligence organisations, which on Monday recommended the inquiry be headed by a former spy.

But Labor’s foreign-affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says the foreign minister has so far avoided saying whether the opposition will be consulted.

Alexander Downer is saying he does not mind consulting the opposition but the government will decide who heads the inquiry.

Mr Jull’s committee reported that the federal government had overstated the dangers posed by Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

The committee said the government remarks on the issue went beyond the advice it received from its intelligence agencies.

It recommended an independent inquiry headed by a former intelligence expert to examine the performance of Australia’s spy agencies leading up to the war.

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