Another two Howard government ministers have been brought into the controversy over when the government knew there were doubts about Iraq’s alleged attempts to acquire weapons-grade uranium.
Yesterday, the main spy agency advising the Prime Minister John Howard, the Office of National Assessments, admitted it knew early this year of doubts about an alleged plan by Iraq to acquire weapons-grade uranium from Africa.
The ONA said it knew about the doubts before Mr Howard made the claim about the uranium in parliament, and long before Australia joined military action against Iraq — but says it failed to tell him.
Now, the Foreign Affairs Department has also admitted it knew of the doubts, but says it failed to tell the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer.
And another spy agency, the Defence Intelligence Organisation, has also admitted it was also aware the uranium claims were dubious.
But a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Robert Hill says he was informed only yesterday that the DIO had neglected to share the dubious claim with him.
In a major speech to Parliament on February 4, Mr Howard quoted British intelligence information that Iraq had sought to buy weapons-grade uranium from the African nation of Niger.
The claims have since been thrown into doubt after some of the related documents were found to have been fake.
Iraq’s alleged attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction was given as the main reason for Australia joining the United States-led military action against the former regime of President Saddam Hussein.