Posted by Esperanza from 66-52-14-42.lsan.dial.netzero.com (22.214.171.124) on Saturday, February 08, 2003 at 2:57PM :
Senate vote shows divide on Iraq
CANBERRA: Australia's Senate passed a symbolic vote of no confidence in Prime Minister John Howard yesterday for his handling of Iraq issue, censuring a government leader for the first time in parliament's 102-year history.
Illustrating the deep divide in Australia over joining any war, opposition and minor parties, who hold the balance of power in the 76-seat chamber, joined forces to pass the vote. It was a political gesture with no legal clout.
The lower House of Representatives, where the conservative government holds a majority, threw out a similar motion which failed by 82 votes to 63.
Howard, a staunch US ally, has come under attack for sending troops and approving fighter jet deployments to join US and British forces in the Gulf preparing for a possible war on Iraq before the United Nations (UN) process has run its course.
Leader of the left-leaning Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, said the Senate's motion, passed by 33 votes to 31, marked a "historic condemnation of the government."
But a bid by the Greens to amend the no-confidence motion to condemn any Australian involvement in Iraq, with or without a UN mandate, was defeated when the main opposition Labor party voted with the government.
Canberra is yet to commit itself to joining any military action in Iraq, whether UN-approved or US-led. But Howard's decision to deploy troops early opened up a sharp political divide on the issue and prompted public protests.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell was set to convince a doubting world yesterday that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and war may be needed to make sure it disarms, US officials said.
Powell will use satellite photographs and recorded Iraqi conversations to press home his point before the UN Security Council that Iraq is a danger to the world.
He has acknowledged there will be no "smoking gun" in his address, but he will, nevertheless, try to convince key nations France, Russia and China that Iraq has weeks, not months, to bow to the will of the UN.
Those three countries, with veto powers on the Security Council, argue that UN weapons inspectors, in Iraq for the past two months, should be given more time to find evidence of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Iraq's state media blasted the planned address to the UN ahead of time yesterday, saying the evidence against Baghdad Powell was to unveil would be fabricated, cheap or vague.
"Powell has nothing but fabricated intelligence information," wrote the ruling Baath Party newspaper, al-Thawra.
Babel, the newspaper of President Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday, said Washington was seeking an excuse to launch its "already-decided aggression" on Iraq.
"What Powell is going to present will be cheap satellite pictures and vague recorded conversations," the government newspaper al-Jumohouriya said.
In a rare television interview broadcast on Tuesday, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein flatly denied Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. Powell then challenged him to "Prove it."
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