Saturday, October 09, 2004

No WMD: Koizumi facing Parliament over Iraq war

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected
to come under fire in parliament next week over his
insistence that he had made the right decision to
support the war in Iraq, despite a US government
report saying no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had
been found there.

The report by US chief weapons inspector Charles
Duelfer concluded that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles,
contrary to Washington's claim before the war in March
last year.

Repeating a well-worn line, Mr Koizumi told reporters
in Hanoi on Thursday: 'If Iraq had cooperated with the
inspections, there would have been no war. Our
decision to support was based on United Nations

But opposition parties are preparing to grill the
Japanese leader when parliament opens next Tuesday.

Said Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) lawmaker Yukio
Hatoyama: 'The report refutes completely the evidence
for starting the Iraqi war.

'PM Koizumi supported the US attack based on
inaccurate data. It is sophistry to use the pretext
that Iraq flouted UN resolutions,' stressed Mr
Hatoyama, who is foreign minister in the DPJ's shadow

In March last year, Mr Koizumi cited WMDs in Iraq as a
reason for backing Washington. He even asserted that
they would be found in due course.

'If such weapons fall into the hands of dictators or
terrorists, thousands of people will lose their lives.
If it is assessed that Saddam has no wish to disarm, I
think it is appropriate to support the US decision to
use military force,' he told the Japanese, most of
whom oppose the war.

But since then, Japanese officials have said the
decision to back the US is based on former Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein's refusal to assist UN

On Thursday, the government's chief spokesman, Chief
Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, even tried to
dismiss the Duelfer report, saying: 'The question of
responsibility does not arise.'

But the Mainichi Shimbun daily retorted in an
editorial: 'Now that WMDs do not exist, why is it not
Koizumi's responsibility? He must explain again why he
supported the war.'

Mr Koizumi will also face new pressures in parliament
for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to come clean
on a shady money scandal that has stained many of the
party's veterans, including former premier Ryutaro

The opposition wants Mr Hashimoto, who allegedly
received a cheque for 100 million yen (S$1.52 million)
from the Japan Dental Association, to testify in

The LDP rejected the idea, but Mr Koizumi gave the
opposition demand a fillip when he suggested that Mr
Hashimoto should do so. 'No matter where the venue, as
a politician, he should give a proper explanation,'
said Mr Koizumi.

Although Mr Hashimoto's faction was said to have tried
to hide the money, prosecutors have decided not to
file charges against the ex-premier - who has since
stepped down as faction leader - due to lack of
evidence of his role in the affair.

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