Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament on the background to the Iraq debate

Government Communications Department 18.6.2003 7.50
Prime Minister's Announcement -

Mr Speaker,

Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki

In accordance with the advice I received from the Chancellor of Justice in May, I, as the Prime Minister of Finland, have refrained from commenting on the investigation into the Iraq leak in public. Yesterday, I had a discussion with the Chancellor of Justice and ascertained that I may now make a public announcement on the issue. The Chancellor of Justice has approved this action. Last week, when I was interviewed as a witness in the matter, I gave the same information to the investigating authorities.

On the basis of these facts, I shall now make a statement to Parliament on the matter. It was my wish to do so on the first possible occasion.

First, I would like to remind you of the debate that took place before the general election and what the debate, from the then opposition's point of view, was about. I considered at the time, as I do today, that it was important to discuss the issue because all citizens were concerned about the approach of war in Iraq. Moreover, the parliamentary elections in March were the first to be held under the new Finnish Constitution under which the Government also carries responsibility before Parliament as regards foreign policy. In Finland today, it is important that citizens are aware of the facts behind foreign policy and that these facts can be openly debated. In a democratic country, citizens must have access to information regarding decisions and agreements that concern their security.

On 7 March, as a result of discussions that had taken place, the Government defined its policy on Iraq; after which the then opposition found it totally acceptable. In fact, the current Government has continued the same policy, which is based on broad national consensus. Discussions on the factual content have, in fact, strengthened our external relations, which are rooted in consistent policies.

As the leader of the biggest opposition party, I received a plenitude of information, both orally and in written form, from various sources during the electoral debate. I discussed the Iraq issue, too, with a great number of people. I received information excluded from public access in an unusual manner and, therefore, it has been extremely difficult for me to speak about the matter. Elusive statements have, quite naturally, resulted in an incoherent picture. I believe that in the light of the information I am now providing the picture will be corrected.

I have not requested nor received any secret documents from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I gave my testimony on the Iraq leak to the investigating authorities on 11 June. In the context of that hearing, I was shown several original documents bearing a secrecy stamp from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I stated that I had never before seen the documents in question. It is important that the manner in which the said documents were made public is established in the course of the investigation.

When giving my testimony on the Iraq leak to the investigating authorities on 11 June, I stated that the information I had provided on my Internet pages and during theelectoral debate was based on two briefing memoranda I had received from Martti Manninen by fax ? one was written by Manninen himself and the other was a summary that was later identified as a summary of the Grosman document from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I had not requested these documents either and they came to me as a total surprise.

From the very beginning, it has been evident to me that facts must emerge as regards both foreign policy and the way in which these facts are made public. I am not the reason for the delay surrounding this statement. The delay has been caused by the restraint required by the official investigation.

Now that I have been able to make my information public, I offer my regrets to the President of the Republic. I have discussed the issue with her.

I believe in the healing force of truth in a democratic society. Our country is part of a changing world. It is only on the basis of democratic debate and openness that we can develop and enhance our foreign policy that world.