Former British Foreign Secretary: Blair had doubts on Iraqi WMD prior to war
Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in diary excerpts published Sunday that he believes Prime Minister Tony Blair knew two weeks before the war that Baghdad probably didn't possess usable weapons of mass destruction.
However, Blair's office shrugged off Cook's claims. "The idea that the Prime Minister ever said that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction is absurd," a spokesman said, requesting anonymity. "His views have been consistent throughout, both publicly and privately, as his cabinet colleagues know."
In excerpts from his diaries published in The Sunday Times, Cook said he was most concerned with a conversation he held with Blair on March 5th, two weeks before the UK went to war. At the time, the government was still trying to get a fresh UN resolution to approve the conflict and Cook was still in government as leader of the House of Commons.
Cook said he told the British Prime Minister that briefings he had received made it clear Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction "that could strike at strategic cities" and asked Blair if he was concerned that the Iraqi leader would use chemical munitions against British soldiers.
Cook said Blair replied, "Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use."
Furthermore, the former minister writes in his diary, to be published in book form as "Point of Departure," that he was deeply troubled by two elements of the exchange.
"The first was that the timetable to war was plainly not driven by the progress of the UN weapons inspections. Tony made no attempt to pretend that what (former chief UN weapons inspector) Hans Blix might report would make any difference to the countdown to invasion," he writes in a March 5 entry.
"The second troubling element to our conversation was that Tony did not try to argue me out of the view that Saddam did not have real weapons of mass destruction that were designed for strategic use against city populations and capable of being delivered with reliability over long distances." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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