Thursday :: May 29, 2003

Blair Ministers Keep Digging a Bigger Hole

by Steve

It keeps getting worse for Tony Blair. First, the Labour MPs who supported Blair on the Iraq invasion vote went nuts when Rummy cavalierly disclosed that it was possible Saddam destroyed his WMDs before the invasion. Then the BBC reported that Blair’s ministers doctored an intelligence dossier to make it fit the conclusions Blair wanted.

Now to cover their tracks, Blair’s ministers have tried to say the dossier wasn’t doctored because the UN inspectors were the ones who said WMDs were certainly there. Unfortunately for Blair, Hans Blix tossed that lie back at Whitehall today when he challenged such an assertion.

Tony Blair's Iraq crisis deepened last night as ministers were accused of distorting the findings of the chief UN weapons inspector to support Britain's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons program. Amid growing anger among senior intelligence officials about Downing Street's use of their work for political ends, Hans Blix's office rejected claims by ministers that he had provided unequivocal evidence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons program.

As the prime minister became the first western leader to visit Iraq since the end of the war, Dr Blix's spokesman said the chief weapons inspector had "never asserted" that Iraq definitely had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the conflict. Ewen Buchanan, who said Dr Blix had merely said there was a "strong presumption" that banned items such as an thrax still existed, was speaking after the armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, declared that the UN had provided "damning" evidence of illegal Iraqi weapons.

Mr Buchanan's remarks will undermine the credibility of Downing Street, which faced severe pressure yesterday over claims that it doctored a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to strengthen the case for war. An unnamed intelligence official told the BBC that the key claim in last September's dossier - that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes of an order - had been inserted on the instructions of officials at No 10.

As the prime minister insisted once again that banned weapons would be found, Downing Street faced renewed pressure last night when the hawkish deputy US defence secretary appeared to belittle the importance of such weapons.
Paul Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair magazine that the decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main reason for invading Iraq was taken for "bureaucratic" reasons, indicating that Washington did not take the threat seriously.

Amid the furore, British intelligence sources expressed fury at Downing Street's behaviour. They were deeply reluctant to allow Downing Street to use their intelligence assessments because they feared it would be manipulated for political ends.

It is refreshing to see the media staying on a story, unlike this country.

Steve :: 10:40 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!