Balkenende: thorough report by Davids Committee

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has responded briefly to a number of the main points from the report of the Committee of Inquiry on Iraq ('the Davids Committee'). He is pleased for example that the Committee has disposed of a number of rumours about Dutch military support for the invasion of Iraq.

This was one of the Prime Minister's comments in his response to the report of the Davids Committee, which investigated the preparation and the decision-making process regarding the political support given by the Netherlands for the invasion of Iraq.

The Committee has produced a thorough report, Mr Balkenende said, 'which constitutes a solid foundation for debate in Parliament. The report deserves a careful response from the government.' The government will thoroughly study it in the coming period.

The Prime Minister responded briefly to a number of the report's main points.

Rumours of military support

Mr Balkenende is pleased that the Committee 'dismissed a number of persistent rumours as entirely fanciful'. It found no evidence whatsoever for Dutch military involvement in the invasion of Iraq.

According to the Prime Minister, the Committee also made short shrift of suggestions that Dutch political support was influenced by a desire to make Jaap de Hoop Scheffer NATO Secretary-General.

International law

The standpoint of the Dutch government in 2002 and 2003 was always crystal clear, said Mr Balkenende: 'Saddam Hussein had the burden of proof in demonstrating that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The burden of proof was not on the international community to demonstrate that he did.'

There was considerable discussion of the legal basis for military intervention, said the Prime Minister. 'There have been and are different approaches to this problem, among both politicians and legal experts.'

Like many other countries, the Netherlands took the position at the time that the existing Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq constituted a basis for military intervention. In Mr Balkenende's words, 'A new resolution, while desirable, was not legally necessary.'

At the time, said the Prime Minister, the Dutch government was convinced that the issue had been considered honestly and that a sound judgment had been made. A substantial parliamentary majority gave the government its consistent support.

The Prime Minister's statement also discussed the provision of information to Parliament.