January 14, 2010 / 4:41 AM / 10 years ago

Dutch PM accepts some of Iraq report criticism

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government accepted with hindsight that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 required a more adequate legal mandate, the prime minister wrote in a letter to parliament on Wednesday.

He was responding to a report challenging the legal grounds for the invasion.

In the report released on Tuesday, the Dutch Committee of Inquiry on Iraq said the Dutch government had supported an invasion of Iraq that had no legal backing and did not fully inform parliament about its plans in the run-up to the conflict.

The findings immediately prompted calls by several party leaders for the government to answer questions, and a debate is being held in parliament on Wednesday night to discuss the cabinet’s response.

“Based on what we know now, the cabinet accepts that a more adequate legal mandate would have been necessary for such an action,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende wrote in the letter to parliament.

Balkenende had initially dismissed the committee’s most critical conclusions on Tuesday, saying there were different opinions about the legal mandate for the invasion and that parliament could not be informed about some issues.

The modified response on Wednesday followed a whole day of discussions within the coalition government after other ministers urged him to soften his stance toward the report’s findings.

Keeping information from parliament is considered “a political sin” in the Netherlands and can be a reason for MPs to call for a minister’s resignation.

The cabinet expects to give a more thorough reaction to the report at the start of February, Balkenende wrote in the letter. He said the government would use the report for a critical assessment of the past and to learn lessons for the future.

Reporting by Catherine Hornby

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