Minister admits confusion over al-Qaeda 'letter'
19 July 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Interior Minister Johan Remkes has admitted he sparked confusion by confirming the existence of a suspected al-Qaeda letter warning of terrorist attacks and then admitting on Monday the letter did not exist.
19 July 2004
AMSTERDAM — Interior Minister Johan Remkes has admitted he sparked confusion by confirming the existence of a suspected al-Qaeda letter warning of terrorist attacks and then admitting on Monday the letter did not exist.
The confession comes after Remkes said last week that the Dutch secret service AIVD was investigating a letter sent to the United Nations in New York warning of terrorist attacks against targets in Brussels and The Hague.
In response to the minister's statement on Monday, Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel said Remkes had "implicitly admitted he made a mistake" and therefore an emergency debate in Parliament was no longer necessary.
But the MP also said that Remkes will be allowed any further mistakes, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Tuesday.
The Liberal VVD party had also been critical of Remkes, a party member. MP Geert Wilders said despite Remkes' explanation, it was still "clumsy" that the minister had made a public reaction to a letter he was not certain existed.
Other political parties said the confusion was not appropriate for a government minister who is deeply involved in the fight against terrorism.
Shortly after Remkes said last week that the AIVD was investigating the letter, it quickly emerged that the letter did not exist.
A ministry spokesman said on Monday that Remkes' statement had referred to an AIVD inquiry into a rumour among journalists that an al-Qaeda letter had been sent to the UN. The spokesman also admitted there had been a misunderstanding.
And Remkes wrote to the Parliament on Monday claiming that he answered media questions last week assuming that the letter existed. He had also spoken about the matter at a press conference in Brussels several hours earlier.
Remkes has also said that the al-Qaeda ultimatum to Europe offering an armistice if it withdraws its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan was being mixed up with the alleged letter sent to the UN headquarters in New York.
The alleged letter came after the AIVD warned the Dutch government earlier this month that Islamic extremists might be preparing a terrorist attack. The government thus issued a terror alert and security was tightened at key Dutch infrastructure points on 9 July. The terror alert has not been rescinded.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news