Senators from the right-wing Liberal party VVD no longer oppose a formal inquiry into the Netherlands’ support for the war in Iraq, the NRC reports.
The change in standpoint emerged during a meeting of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday afternoon. The gathering was called to discuss ministers’ answers to a left-wing senators’ question on Iraq.
In April, senators 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 was largely a repeat of earlier statements. 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.
Senators were unhappy about the answers, which they said simply went over old ground. ‘The mist has not cleared,’ said Uri Rosenthal, who leads the VVD in the senate. ‘After months of waiting for answers’, the VVD would back ‘some form of parliamentary inquiry’ if the cabinet did not clarify issues, he said.
Until now, the VVD has opposed an inquiry.
In particular, senators have focused on the legality of the British and US-led invasion, advice from Dutch civil servants and security service reports on the possible presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
‘The cabinet gives different reasons for not allowing us to see civil service reports which led to the decision to give political support to the war in Iraq. That is very unsatisfactory,’ Rosenthal said.
The senate will now ask ministers a series of follow-up questions. If those answers are not satisfactory, there is majority support in the senate for an inquiry.
The Labour party, which has always supported a parliamentary inquiry, was forced to drop the issue during negotiations to form a new government.
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