Senators unhappy with answers on Iraq

Senators from a number of parties in the upper house of parliament (senate) are unhappy at the cabinet’s lack of response to question about the Netherlands’ support for the Iraq war, the NRC reports.

In April, senators from the left-wing parties had asked ministers to explain the decision-making process which led up to Holland’s political support for the invasion in 2003.
The cabinet’s formal reply to those questions was sent to the senate on Friday night, but is largely a repeat of earlier statements, the NRC says.
Prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende has repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein had not conformed to UN resolutions and that is why Iraq was invaded. The Netherlands gave political but not military support to the US and British action.
Ministers have again refused to discuss a number of internal documents, arguing that parliament has been fully and properly informed, the NRC says. The confidential reports include civil service documents which appear to doubt the threat posed by Iraq’s reported weapons of mass destruction.
Labour senator Klaas de Vries said that the government’s answers ‘do not give much clarity’ and are little more than a ‘formal repetition of standpoints’. De Vries said he expected senators would now ask more questions.
Labour wants a formal investigation into the Iraq war but was forced to drop its demand as part of the coalition government negotiations.
Socialist senator Arjan Vliegenhart said the cabinet’s replies were ‘100 times nothing’. ‘A parliamentary inquiry remains absolutely essential,’ he told the NRC.
Britta Bohler, senator for the left-wing green party GroenLinks said the cabinet’s letter was completely insufficient given the long time ministers had taken to answer. ‘If this is the result, then it is almost contempt towards the senate,’ she said.
Senators will discuss their formal response to the cabinet letter next week but do not have a majority support for a parliamentary inquiry.

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