Ex-aide: Blair lied Iraq had weapons
Ex-aide: Blair lied Iraq had weapons
Sun Jan 11 20:09:07 2004

[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 10/6/03 ]

Ex-aide: Blair lied Iraq had weapons

New York Times

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair conceded privately that Iraq did not
have quickly deployable weapons of mass destruction as the British
government was claiming as justification for war, says Robin Cook, a
former foreign minister.

Cook quit his post as leader of the House of Commons in March because of
Britain's decision to join in the American-led war in Iraq.

He says Blair also made it clear to him in a conversation two weeks
before combat began that he did not believe Saddam Hussein's weapons
posed a "real and present danger" to Britain.

Cook's account was made public in extracts published in The Sunday Times
of London from "Point of Departure," a book based on his diary entries
from the period.

An intelligence dossier published in September 2002 argued that Iraq had
unconventional weapons that could be used within 45 minutes of an order
being given.

Cook said he had no reason to doubt Blair believed the claim at the time
it was made. But he said that in their conversation on March 5, Blair
told him the weapons were only battlefield munitions and could not be
assembled by Hussein for quick use because of "all the effort he has put
into concealment."

Cook wrote, "If No. 10 [Blair's government] accepted that Saddam had no
real WMD, which he could credibly use against city targets, and if they
themselves believed that he could not reassemble his chemical weapons in
a credible time scale for use on the battlefield, just how much of a
threat did they really think Saddam represented?"

In response, a Blair spokesman said: "The idea that the prime minister
ever said that Saddam Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction is
absurd. His views have been consistent throughout, both publicly and
privately, as his Cabinet colleagues know. Robin Cook's views are well
known and have been expressed many times before."


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