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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Blair spokesman denies exaggerating Iraq threat

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Jan 13, IRNA -- Former prime minister Tony Blair's director of communications remained unrepentant Tuesday about unequivocal claims made about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime that was used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Alastair Campbell denied that the threat was exaggerated in the British government’s dossier that claimed Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes even though none were ever found.

Giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Campbell insisted that Britain ought to be “proud” of the war and that he would defend “every word” in the dossier, produced six months ahead of the joint US-UK invasion.

Asked a number of times about the evidence of the claimed “growing” threat, he repeatedly said it reflected the intelligence given to the then-prime minister and was implied in the report, if not explicit.

"At no point did anyone from the prime minister down say to the intelligence services: 'You have got to tailor it to fit that argument,'" said Campbell.

As director of communications between 1997 and 2003, he played a key role in the drawing up of the government's September 2002 dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, chairing several meeting with intelligence chiefs.

He insisted that the claim that the government exaggerated the threat in the dossier, originally made on the BBC, "was in large part caused by a piece of dishonest journalism."

Campbell, giving evidence ahead of Blair, also disputed that the former prime minister “shifted” to support the US policy of regime change following a summit with president George W Bush in March 2002.

But he revealed that Blair had written privately to Bush several times in 2002, which have never been published, signalling that the UK "will be there" should diplomacy fail and military action take place.

The inquiry was previously told by Sir Christopher Meyer, the then-British ambassador to the US, that Blair shifted his position at Crawford summit.

Campbell said that Meyer's evidence was "overstated" and criticised the former ambassador to the US as being "churlish" in refusing to accept that Blair had subsequently persuaded Bush to involve the UN.


End News / IRNA / News Code 893803

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