Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (108, 109)

Paul McGrath

Question:

100 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in Iraq; if he will further report on the situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4284/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

With regard to Iraq, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 83 and 84.

On 11 December 2003, I made a statement to the House concerning the situation in Afghanistan. Progress towards re-establishing a democratic civil government in Afghanistan continues. A constitution was approved by the constitutional Loya Jirga on 4 January 2004. The constitution observes the United Nations Charter and respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, while establishing the centrality of Islam. It also provides for an office of president and a national assembly. Voter registration, under the auspices of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, began on 1 December in a number of provinces. Presidential and national assembly elections are expected to take place in the second half of this year.

On 14 October 2003, the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to authorise the extension of the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, to 20 December 2004, and to authorize the expansion of ISAF's mandate outside Kabul and its environs.

Progress has also been made on the creation of a national police force and reform of the national army. The first battalions of the army have begun military operations alongside coalition forces. The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process began on 24 October in the northern province of Kunduz, and has continued in a number of provinces, and in Kabul city.

Nevertheless, a number of serious problems continue to confront Afghanistan: the security situation continues to give cause for concern; the economy is still in dire straits; and poppy cultivation is a large and growing industry. On the political front, the ATA's writ largely does not run beyond Kabul, and there has been little progress in forcing regional governors to submit tax revenue to the central government. Socially and culturally, tribal divisions run deep.

Political, security and development issues are on the agenda for an EU ministerial Troika to Afghanistan on 17 February 2004, which I will lead. These issues will also be addressed by an international conference on Afghanistan, which will take place in Berlin, most likely at the end of March.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 23.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

104 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a public inquiry can be established into the Government's decision to collude with the illegal invasion of Iraq to address the revelations that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction and did not pose as an imminent threat, in keeping with the US and British Governments' commitments to hold inquiries. [4350/04]

View answer

The decision of the US and UK Governments to establish inquiries into the quality of intelligence which led them to conclude that Iraq posed an imminent threat to international peace and security through its possession of weapons of mass destruction has no direct parallel for Ireland. The Government never claimed to have national intelligence to this effect and there is consequently no question of the Government establishing an inquiry.

In arriving at a view on the threat posed by Iraq, the Government, like most governments around the world, was guided by a number of factors: first, the hard evidence that Iraq had at one time been in possession of chemical weapons and had used them both in its war with Iran and against its own people; second, that it had sought to develop nuclear weapons capability; third, that it had persistently defied the demands of the Security Council that it verifiably dismantle its WMD capabilities; fourth, that it refused to co-operate fully with UN weapons inspectors; finally, that the UN inspectors were not satisfied that Iraq had accounted for its stocks of WMD. The Government did not base its position on intelligence provided by either the US or theUK.

I reject the Deputy's assertion that the Government colluded in the invasion of Iraq. The Government came before this House on 20 March 2003 and put forward a motion, which was approved by the Dáil, regretting that the coalition had found it necessary to launch its campaign in the absence of a further resolution of the UN Security Council. The reasons underlying the Government's decision to maintain overflight and landing arrangements were set out in the Dáil during the debate and the Government's decision was endorsed in the motion approved by the Dáil.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 44.