I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 64, 90 and 101 together.
The contents of the dossier mentioned had no bearing on the Government's position in relation to this issue. The Government did not rely on UK and US intelligence sources in its approach to the issue of whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the coalition action.
In arriving at a position 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; and, fifth, that the UN inspectors were not satisfied that Iraq had accounted for its stocks of WMD.
The Government had regard to reports of UN weapons inspectors and Security Council resolutions going back to 1991, in which the Security Council stated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
At the time when Security Council Resolution 1441 was adopted, the Security Council was acting in the belief that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction. This belief was very widely shared in the international community. The General Affairs Council of the EU at its meeting of 18-19 November 2002 stated three times in the clearest terms its belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was despite the fact that there was disagreement among many member states about how to deal with the situation.
In his report of 6 March to the Security Council, Dr. Blix, head of UNMOVIC, the arms inspection team mandated to investigate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said that many questions relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction remained unanswered. We fully supported the work of the weapons inspections teams throughout the crisis. On 5 March, in this House, I called for them to continue the inspections process for as long as they, and the members of the Security Council, considered it necessary and worthwhile. Whether or not these weapons still existed at the time, Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament obligations through its failure to co-operate fully with the arms inspectors in carrying out their mandate of verifying that Iraq no longer held weapons of mass destruction.
The reported comments of the Department of Foreign Affairs official related to the contents of a British dossier and not to the supposed existence of weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the official in my Department expressed his scepticism that Iraq could deploy battlefield weapons carrying weapons of mass destruction material within a 45 minute time frame. The House and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs were briefed on information received from the Security Council and the UN weapons inspectors. I clearly stated in my briefings that the Government had no independent means of verifying such reports.