Blair defends decision to go to war

UK Prime Minister has insisted that intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction "left little doubt" they existed, despite last week's report criticising much of the information as unreliable.

    Blair says the world is better off without Saddam Hussein

    "The intelligence really left little doubt about Saddam Hussein

    and weapons of mass destruction," a defiant Tony Blair told parliament

    at the start of a debate into the inquiry.

    The information "made it absolutely clear that we were entirely

    entitled on the basis of that to go back to the United Nations and

    say there was a continuous threat from (Iraqi leader) Saddam

    Hussein," he said.

    An inquiry team led by former top civil servant Lord Robin

    Butler said last Wednesday much of the intelligence on Iraq's

    weaponry had later proved to be unreliable.

    The report cleared Blair of any deliberate wrongdoing, but he

    has since come under pressure from opponents to explain how he

    interpreted the intelligence as showing Baghdad posed an immediate

    threat to the West, Blair's argument for backing the US-led

    conflict.

    Opposition criticism

    Conservative Party leader Michael Howard said there was an alarming gap

    between intelligence that was "sporadic, patchy, little and limited", and

    Blair's prewar statements that said it was "extensive detailed and

    authoritative".

    "The prime minister once said that he was a pretty straight guy. But he

    has not been straight with the British people today. Why is it that for this

    prime minister 'sorry' seems to be the hardest word?" Howard said.

    "The prime minister once said that he was a pretty straight guy. But he

    has not been straight with the British people today. Why is it that for this

    prime minister 'sorry' seems to be the hardest word?"

    Michael Howard,
    Conservative Party leader

    But Blair insisted Saddam

    Hussein's intentions had been completely clear, irrespective of

    whether or not any actual weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were

    found after the fall of Baghdad.

    "It was absolutely clear that he (Saddam) had every intention to

    carry on developing these weapons, that he was procuring materials

    to do so and that, for example in respect of ballistic missiles, he

    was going way beyond what was permitted by the United Nations,"

    Blair said.

    The prime minister also vehemently defended his decision to go

    to war, saying Britain had entered into it "with a clear conscience

    and a strong heart".

    Butler report

    "Removing Saddam was not a war crime, it was an act of

    liberation for the Iraqi people," he said to cheers from members of

    his ruling Labour Party.

    "The intelligence really left little doubt about Saddam Hussein

    and weapons of mass destruction"

    Tony Blair,
    British prime minister

    However Blair also announced he would make some changes to

    the way the government dealt with intelligence after criticisms

    in the Butler report.

    The Joint Intelligence Committee, which co-ordinates

    intelligence efforts, would not be used to draw up any future

    dossiers setting out the case for a war, while all further documents

    would also include any caveats expressed by intelligence sources, he

    announced.

    This was in response to a British government dossier on Iraq's

    WMDs issued by the government in September 2002 which has been at

    the centre of allegations when Blair and his ministers intensively promoted the case

    for war.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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