Straw denies ignoring Iraq advice
Former UK foreign minister says legal adviser gave him contradictory opinion on war.
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2010 18:25 GMT
Wood, pictured, said Straw had ignored his warnings over a second UN resolution [GALLO/GETTY]

Jack Straw, Britain's foreign minister during the Iraq war, has denied that he ignored advice that the 2003 invasion was illegal, during his second appearance before a public inquiry into the conflict.

Speaking in London, Straw said that two months before the war he read "with great care" an opinion given by Michael Wood, his chief legal adviser at the time, but had rejected it because it contradicted previous advice.

In his first appearance at the inquiry last month, Straw had said he only "reluctantly" came around to back the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, accepting it was inevitable after Iraq rejected a final chance to disarm as outlined in UN resolution 1441.

However, when Wood gave evidence to the inquiry a few days after Straw's appearance, he threw into doubt the minister's version of events, saying Straw had ignored his warnings that a second UN resolution authorising force was needed.

'Contradictory advice'

"I took a very close interest in the question of the lawfulness of any military action in which the United Kingdom might be involved," Straw, who is currently justice minister in the British government, said.

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Straw confirmed he received Wood's advice on January 24, 2003, two months before the invasion, which said acting without a second resolution "would amount to a crime of aggression".

He read this "with great care, and gave it the serious attention it deserved", before replying: "I note your advice, but I do not accept it."

Straw explained on Monday that there was a "striking contrast" between this later memo and one Wood wrote in December which set out a balanced view stating both why a second UN resolution was needed, as well as why it was not.

"The advice that he gave was contradictory," Straw said.

In the end, Straw noted, Peter Goldsmith, the former attorney general, decided in February 2003 that a second UN resolution was not needed and this was the "definitive legal advice" which justified war.

The inquiry, which began in November, heard from Tony Blair, the former prime minister, on January 29.

Sir John Chilcot, the probe's chairman, has said Blair could be called to testify again, while Gordon Brown, the prime minister, is due to appear in the next couple of months.

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