Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38)

Mary Upton

Question:

21 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the main points of the submission made by the Government to the International Court of Justice regarding the building by Israel of a security wall in the occupied Palestinian territories; the Government's views on the right of the court to adjudicate on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4207/04]

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Dan Boyle

Question:

36 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Ireland is associated with a European Union submission to the International Court of Justice regarding the wall being constructed by Israel in the occupied territories; the submissions Ireland has made independently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4324/04]

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Brendan Howlin

Question:

57 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps the Government has taken on foot of the invitation by the International Court of Justice to make submissions on the legality of the wall being constructed in the occupied Palestinian territory; if the Government will avail of the opportunity to make a written and oral submission to the court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4189/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 36 and 57 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question No. 3.

John Perry

Question:

22 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in Kashmir; his views on the current relationship between India and Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4281/04]

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There is a long running history of conflict between India and Pakistan, and these two nuclear armed countries came close to war in 2002. However, there have recently been encouraging political developments. Both countries have agreed to hold a "composite dialogue", to include the issue of Kashmir, full diplomatic relations have been restored, civil aviation and communications links are being restored, and a ceasefire along the line of control has been in place since 25 November 2003.

During the South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation, SAARC, summit in Islamabad from 4 to 6 January 2004, the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India held discussions on Kashmir and terrorism. Most positively, they announced an agreement to hold composite dialogue talks in a joint statement following the summit. These will take place at official level from 16 to 18 February 2004. Ireland, as EU President, issued a statement welcoming these developments.

The EU has always been ready to lend what encouragement it can to assist both countries in making progress towards establishing a durable peace in Kashmir. I will lead an EU troika mission to India on 16 February, and to Pakistan on 18 February. The visit will afford the opportunity to review and discuss bilateral and regional issues and, in particular, to urge both countries to pursue actively the dialogue which they have recently initiated.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

23 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has satisfied himself that the Government was misled regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; if the House was misled in this regard; and that advertently or inadvertently the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs was briefed on information in regard weapons of mass destruction that has proved to be false. [4187/04]

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Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

64 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if officials in his Department were in contact either before or after the publication of the British dossier on weapons of mass destruction; if an official in his Department was sceptical regarding the claims of weapons made by the British on weapons of mass destruction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4326/04]

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Joan Burton

Question:

90 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views in relation to the intelligence upon which Resolution 1441 of the UN Security Council, regarding the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, was based; his further views on the implications of such being proved to have been seriously flawed, and the use of such by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in public statements and statements to the House; and if his Department provided such information to both. [4181/04]

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Eamon Gilmore

Question:

101 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Irish Government, in view of recently published defects in the intelligence upon which the recent war on Iraq was based, regrets not having made a public demand for an extended time period for the UN inspectors to enable them to implement UN resolutions and avert a war. [4188/04]

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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.

Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 6.