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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 12607

Doorstop Interview, Sydney Airport

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/09/2002

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 12607

Location: Visit to Nigeria; Iraq.

E&OE...........

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard tell us what you are hoping to achieve from this trip?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the discussions about Zimbabwe are going to be very difficult. Zimbabwe has not responded to the concerns expressed at our meeting in March when we imposed twelve months suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth. We';ll discuss what';s happened since then and what further action we can take on behalf of the Commonwealth. It is going to be quite an up-hill task because Zimbabwe so far has been quite indifferent to the views of other Commonwealth countries and the views of other countries around the world. I hope we can make some progress, I hope I can with my colleagues Thabo Mbeki and President Obasanjo present a solid front on this issue, but it is not going to be easy.

JOURNALIST:

Zimbabwe';s main opposition has asked for the Commonwealth troika to call for Robert Mugabe';s resignation. Would you consider that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what our authority is from the Commonwealth is to deal with the clearly unsatisfactory nature of the election. It was an overwhelming view of the Commonwealth observer group that the election was not properly conducted and we have limited authority. I think what we should do is meet. I';ve invited President Mugabe to come to Abuja to meet us and put his point of view, and here what we have to say. I don';t know whether he is going to come or not but we will obviously have the opportunity of putting our point of view, but there';s an overwhelming view that the last election was not properly conducted and that';s not just the view of Britain and Australia and New Zealand it';s the view of the Caribbean and African countries as well.

JOURNALIST:

What actions will you be calling for?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it is too early to say. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

How stringent can you make any sanctions though Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we haven';t decided on sanctions and in any event sanctions would be flowing from decisions taken by individual countries.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister will have a chance to discuss the Iraq situation with Tony Blair?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I intend after being in Abuja to go to London for a day and half and I will talk to the British Prime Minister about both Zimbabwe and Iraq and also see the Foreign Secretary. It will be an opportunity for the two of us to compare notes on what is a difficult issue. I remain very strongly of the view that any offer from Iraq to admit Weapons Inspectors has to be tested against the background of a new resolution from the Security Council. The old resolutions just aren';t precise and tough enough, you need a new resolution and I know there';s a lot of negotiations going on at the present time to try and obtain that and those negotiations and the initiatives of the Americans have our very support.

JOURNALIST:

Do you expect to be shown Tony Blair';s secret dossier of evidence as to Iraq';s weapons.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that';s a document that is going to be tabled in the British Parliament next week. I think the whole world will probably see it when it is tabled in the British Parliament.

JOURNALIST:

Do you expect any further briefings from Mr Blair or his team on that evidence?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will obviously, I will obviously have an opportunity of talking to a lot of people in London about the whole Iraqi situation. But there';s plenty of evidence already in the public domain, people shouldn';t imagine that there is some secret cruel or undisclosed evidence which is going to transform this debate. What you have is in the public domain already plenty of evidence of the possession of weapons of mass destruction, a desire to generate nuclear weapons, a capacity to do that if they can only get there hands on fissile material from overseas. So the evidence is already there, very strongly in the public domain.

JOURNALIST:

How concerned are you that Australians don';t support action against Iraq.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we haven';t decided to take action and I can understand why people don';t want military conflict, I don';t, none of us do, nobody wants military conflict and everybody hopes it can be avoided and I do to and it can be avoided if we get a tough enforceable new resolutions from the security council and if that is complied with and enforced fully then it can be avoided.

JOURNALIST:

If it comes down to the point where we have to make that decision will MP';s be given a conscience vote.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals. Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 12607