Pressure is mounting on the Dutch government to agree to an inquiry into its support for the war in Iraq following new revelations in the press this weekend.
The NRC reported on Saturday that a senior civil servant at the foreign affairs ministry withheld information from the foreign minister that said the legal justification for the Dutch position showed ‘material and procedural shortcomings’.
The Netherlands gave political support to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US and Britain but did not send troops. The invasion was not backed by a United Nations mandate.
At the time, the government justified its support for the invasion by saying a UN resolution was ‘politically desirable but not essential’, the NRC says. But the secret memo, dated April 29, 2003, shows government lawyers disputed that fact, the paper says.
The invasion of Iraq began on March 20.
The memo outlining lawyers’ objections was archived with the annotation ‘at this moment the discussion is closed’, the NRC states.
On Sunday, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who was pm at the time, said he had asked for further information about the revelations but that he still does not support calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
But MPs from the ruling Labour and ChristenUnie parties told the NRC they were shocked by the latest revelations. The memo shows exactly why the government’s arguments in favour of supporting the war were not backed up, Labour MP Martijn van Dam told the paper.
And opposition MPs have asked ministers for an explanation. It is extremely ‘serious that this was not involved in the decision-making process,’ Liberal leader Mark Rutte said.
The Labour party agreed to drop its calls for an inquiry as one of the conditions for joining the current coalition government. But senators are pressing for more answers and there is majority support for a full investigation in the upper house.
Some 58% of the population back a parliamentary inquiry into events surrounding Dutch support for the invasion, according to a TNS Nipo opinion poll for RTL news.
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