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PM Howard Defends His Pre-Emptive Strike Comments

3 December 2002

EXTRACT FROM PRESS CONFERENCE WITH AUSTRALIAN PM JOHN HOWARD & SIR MICHAEL SOMARE.... FROM... FULL TRANSCRIPT

....

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, did you discuss your remarks on the terrorism issue today [inaudible] and your remarks at the weekend of [inaudible] strikes…

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

What you mean between Michael and I?

JOURNALIST:

Did you discuss that issue?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

No, not my remarks, no. But as to the… I mean, we touched in the context of other discussions, we touched briefly on the issue of terrorism. But explicitly in relation to the other thing, no.

JOURNALIST:

Do you think Asian countries are overreacting or misinterpreting your remarks?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

That's for you to… you're the commentator, I'm the player, the advocate, the participant, you can do the commentary. I made those remarks very carefully in a very low key fashion. They were quite accurate. They were not directed at any of our friends. Self-evidently they weren’t directed at any of our friends and anybody who read those remarks would come to that conclusion. I don’t resile from them in any way.

JOURNALIST:

Well have they been taken the wrong way by Asian countries?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well I’m not going to get into a commentary on that. I don’t think anything is achieved. The words are clear, simple, direct, people understand what they mean. They don’t mean any bellicosity towards our friends. They are a statement of the obvious in relation to the most elementary and fundamental responsibilities of the government.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, clearly senior political figures have interpreted them as a provocative statement. Are you not concerned that your statements could damage Australia’s relationships with some of its closest….?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

I don’t believe that our relations have been damaged by those statements at all. I think they are known and understood for what they are and that is a statement of the obvious and I don’t resile in any way from them.

....

ENDS

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