'Ex-ministers' pronouncements on Iraq should be public'

28 February 2008

'Ex-ministers' pronouncements on Iraq should be public'

Former ministers from the first government headed by current Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, which was in power at the time of the US-British invasion of Iraq in 2003, have recently declared their backing for an enquiry into the Netherlands' support for the attack – but anonymously. They should come out of the shadows and declare their support openly, according to a call endorsed by the whole of Parliament during a debate on the matter requested by SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel, which took place on Wednesday. His request was provoked by a report from the United States which revealed that during the run-up to the war the US government lied on 935 occasions over the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Harry van BommelPrime Minister Balkenende was unwilling to react to anonymous statements from former members of his first cabinet. According to Van Bommel the former ministers' pronouncements, however, represent a new fact that must be looked into more closely, while he also stated that the US report should be seriously scrutinised by the Dutch government.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen the US report does not refer to lies but at most to 'incorrect assertions'. In addition, the minister said, it has not been demonstrated that these incorrect assertions were deliberate. Describing Verhagen's reasoning as "nonsense", Van Bommel said that "Members of the American government said unambiguously that they knew for certain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was making attempts to develop a nuclear weapon. That turned out in practice to be completely incorrect."

In common with other MPs Van Bommel hopes that the conscience of further ex-ministers will bother them to the extent that they will come forward.

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