Balkenende rejects Iraq enquiry criticism

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Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has rejected a number of criticisms in the final report by the Davids Commission, tasked with investigating decision-making by the Dutch government on political support for the Iraq war.


According to the English summary of the 550 page report, the cabinet failed to fully inform the lower house of parliament about its support for the US-led invasion and the military action "had no sound mandate under international law".

However, Prime Minister Balkenende says he fully informed of the lower house of parliament with regard to government support for the invasion and Saddam Hussein's repeated refusal to respect UN resolutions and to fully co-operate with UN weapons inspectors justified the invasion.
The Labour Party, a member of Mr Balkenende's tri-party coalition, has demanded a fresh statement from the prime minister. Mariëtta Hamer, leader of Labour's parliamentary party, says she was "unpleasantly surprised" by Mr Balkenende's response to the Davids report.

Opposition parties say the report is shocking and "hard conclusions" about Prime Minister Balkenende's role can be drawn from it. GreenLeft leader Femke Halsema says, "it is extremely serious" that the prime minister provided little or no leadership on the Iraq question and left the matter entirely to the foreign affairs minister. She called for a parliamentary enquiry.

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said it was clear that the cabinet was suffering from "tunnel vision" in the run-up to the Iraq war. SP leader Agnes Kant says the report makes it clear that "Mr Balkenende had something to hide" and PVV leader Geert Wilders called for the prime minister's resignation.


Photograph: Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende; ANP