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Controversy Mounting Over Australian Participation in US-led Attack on Iraq - 2003-06-02

Controversy is mounting in Australia over whether the government relied on flawed intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction in deciding to join the U.S.-led coalition's attack on Iraq.

At issue is a Sydney Morning Herald article Monday saying Defense Minister Robert Hill has ordered a full review of intelligence used by Australia to decide policy on Iraq.

Speaking to the newspaper while at a regional defense meeting in Singapore, Mr. Hill was quoted as saying he was comfortable that Australia made the right decision based on information that was available. But it was important to establish a full picture and learn from the experience if there were any flaws.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer Monday denied that meant a full review had been ordered of the intelligence used to justify the attack on Iraq. "We are happy with the way our intelligence works. Every time there is a major event, we don't conduct yet another review of our intelligence. We conducted a review after the Bali bombing of our intelligence, which confirmed everything that we had understood and thought. You only conduct a review if you think the process has been flawed and that's not a judgment we've made," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, under heavy public opposition, sent troops to join British and U.S. Forces in the war to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Opposition quickly dissipated once the military operation quickly unseated Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

But two months on, there is growing international criticism that no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons have been found, even though they formed the justification for the invasion.

Foreign Minister Downer says Iraq's weapons of mass destruction may yet be found.

The Australian Defense Force has confirmed its sending 13 member team to join the hunt for Iraq's suspected arsenal. It will be part of U.S.-led 'Iraq Survey Group,' which will scour the country searching for chemical and biological agents.