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Australia blacklists Hizb Allah

The Australian government said on Tuesday it was seeking to ban Hizb Allah after Australian intelligence gave it a terrorist tag.

Last Modified: 27 May 2003 06:51 GMT

The Australian government said on Tuesday it was seeking to ban Hizb Allah after Australian intelligence gave it a terrorist tag.

Firm friends: Australian and US
policies towards Hizb Allah and
Iraq follow similar course

Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the United States and Britain had already acted against the Lebanon-based group.

Until now, Australia has only banned armed groups listed by the UN Security Council.

But Williams said Australia needed to act alone to deal with any potential threat. He said the United Nations only seemed to blacklist groups linked to the al Qaeda network or the Taliban.

"We have not been able to list other organisations which are of equal concern,” Williams told parliament.

The opposition Labour party agreed to add the Hizb Allah to Australia's blacklist but refused to give the conservative government greater powers for dealing with banned groups.
 
Listing a group as a terrorist organisation gives Australia the legal power to act against anyone found to be funding one. 
    
Intelligence ignored

On the same day the Australian government sought to ban Hizb Allah, it was criticized for ignoring information from its own intelligence officials.

Australian Foreign Minister Downer
pursued an agressive Iraq policy 
  

Former intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie cited the way intelligence was ignored in the build-up to the US-led war in Iraq.

Australia's intelligence community, he said, long doubted US claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

But despite the best efforts of the ONA, an intelligence agency equivalent to Washington's National Security Agency, a high reliance on US information meant Australian intelligence was contaminated, Wilkie said in a telephone interview. 

"The US information was faulty because there was a lot of political pressure to come up with a smoking gun," Wilkie said. He had resigned in March from the Office of National Assessments (ONA) over Australia's likely involvement in an Iraq war
    
"Our intelligence agencies aren't as politicised as the United States but they are going in that direction under this government," Wilkie said. 

The ONA declined to comment on Tuesday, but ONA director-general Kim Jones has previously downplayed Mr Wilkie’s role in the agency, saying he was only a member of the Transnational Issues Branch and normally worked on illegal immigration issues, a claim Wilkie denies.

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