Blair defends case for going to war against Iraq
British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday said he stands "totally" by the case he made for ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war against Iraq.
The Prime Minister is being questioned about how he used intelligence in the lead-up to war by a "super-committee" made up of the parliament members who chair Parliament's select committees.
Much of the questioning has centered on the findings of Monday's foreign affairs committee report, which said "the jury is still out" on whether the assessment of the threat from Iraq ahead of the war was accurate.
Regarding this finding, Blair said, "For me, the jury is not out at all."
Asked if he regretted anything done in the run-up to the war, he pointed to the way an academic thesis had been used without attribution in February's "dodgy dossier".
He was asked whether the suggestion that Baghdad could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was given too much prominence in a government dossier published in September 2002.
Blair said he did not concede at all that the intelligence at the time was wrong, and stressed that MPs - in a split decision - had cleared Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell of inserting the 45 minute claim into the dossier.
At the outset of the House of Commons liaison committee hearing, Blair made clear, "I stand by that case totally. I am quite sure we did the right thing in removing Saddam Hussein.
"I am quite sure we did the right thing because not merely was it a threat to the region and the wider world, but it was an appalling regime which the world is well rid of...
"I refute any suggestion that we misled Parliament and the people totally."
According to the BBC, Blair continued by saying, "I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programs."
Blair was urged to apologize to Parliament for inadvertently misrepresenting the "dodgy dossier" in Parliament by suggesting it was "further intelligence". Blair said the government had already said sorry for that mistake but he argued the thesis had been used only for one part of the dossier and the information had been accurate.
Furthermore, he rebutted former cabinet minister Clare Short's claim that he had set a timetable for war with US President George Bush last September.
That suggestion was "completely and totally untrue", Blair stated. Indeed, what had been agreed with President Bush was to use UN pressure as the way to avoid conflict, he said.
Blair also countered claims that an entourage of advisers in Downing Street made key decisions on Iraq, saying both the cabinet and Parliament had been fully involved. "The idea that you get together a couple of people in your office over a cup of coffee and decide to take the country to war is far-fetched," he added. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)