- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Foreign leaders who sided with the United States in the Iraq war are facing political heat at home over the so-far fruitless effort to find Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Opposition parties in Australia, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands have demanded official inquiries into their governments’ decisions to support the war and into what was known about Iraq’s weapons arsenal before the war began.

In Japan, a leftist party used the dispute over weapons of mass destruction to try to block the dispatch of Japanese troops to the U.S.-led peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso “lied,” Communist lawmaker Antonio Filipe charged in a parliamentary debate earlier this month.

“What we want to know is if he deliberately wanted to trick us all or if someone gave him information that tricked him.”

Former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay’s Jan. 28 declaration that “we were almost all wrong” about the extent of Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear-arms programs also has been noted by governments that opposed the war, including those in France, Germany and Russia.

At a major defense conference in Munich this month, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the failure to find large unconventional weapons stocks in Iraq had justified their active opposition to the war.

Mrs. Alliot-Marie denied claims by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others that U.S. and British prewar fears about Iraq’s weapons were widely shared, saying French analysts had differed from the “Anglo-Saxons” on Saddam’s weapons programs.

Mr. Fischer, in an address largely devoted to trying to heal the rift with the United States, nevertheless made a clear allusion to Iraq: “Germany feels that events have proved the position it took at the time to be right. We were not and are still not convinced of the reasons for war.”

A Russian diplomat in Washington last week pointedly noted a statement by President Vladimir Putin in October 2002 insisting that Russia “does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and we have not received any such information from our partners as yet.”

President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair already face official inquiries into suspected intelligence failures regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Australia, which contributed the third-largest contingent of troops to the war, now has a parliamentary investigation into the prewar intelligence. Kevin Rudd, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said yesterday that an independent inquiry is “inevitable” after news reports that Prime Minister John Howard’s government was told by senior intelligence officials that U.S. estimates of the danger from Iraq were overstated.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called Mr. Rudd’s remarks “hysterical.”

“We’ve explained all along that we have not, to use that immortal British expression, ‘sexed up the intelligence,’” Mr. Downer told an Australian news program yesterday.

No allied government is expected to fall because of its support for the U.S.-led war, but several may face anxious moments in the coming months.

In Spain, center-left opposition parties are pressing for an inquiry into prewar intelligence just as the election for a successor to retiring Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar heats up.

Mr. Aznar’s government has rejected the need for a probe, saying Spain’s decision to back the war was based on national security interests and on what Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said was a consensus at the United Nations that Iraq was in violation of resolutions and must be disarmed.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende earlier this month made a similar argument in rejecting opposition calls for an investigation into the question of weapons of mass destruction.

The center-right government was convinced that Saddam was defying U.N. mandates and intelligence about his weapons stocks did not play a major role in the government’s decision, Mr. Balkenende said.

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