Blair defends Iraq war decision

2011-01-21 13:01

London - Tony Blair said on Friday he was determined to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam Hussein despite legal concerns, as he returned for a second appearance at Britain's inquiry into the Iraq conflict.

The former prime minister has been recalled to explain discrepancies in the evidence he gave one year ago when he first attended the inquiry into the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In a written statement submitted to the inquiry, Blair said he had given then-US president George W Bush a "strong commitment" in January 2003 that Britain would do "what it took" to disarm Saddam, despite the legal concerns.

He conceded he received advice from then attorney general Peter Goldsmith on January 14 and January 30 2003 suggesting that a further UN resolution was required for military action to be legal, but said this was "provisional".

"In speaking to President Bush on 31st January 2003 I was not going to go into this continuing legal debate, internal to the UK government," Blair wrote in his statement.

"I repeated my strong commitment, given publicly and privately to do what it took to disarm Saddam."

A decision to be made

He noted that Goldsmith, the government's top legal adviser, changed his mind, adding that if he had not, "then the UK could not and would not have participated in the decision to remove Saddam".

Summing up, Blair added: "In the end there was a decision that had to be made: on the basis of the information available, to decide whether to join the US coalition and remove Saddam, or to stay out. I decided we should stay in."

Around 20 protesters holding up signs saying "Bliar" rallied outside the London conference centre where the inquiry is being held as the ex-premier arrived amid heavy security and a large police presence.

Documents released ahead of the resumption of public proceedings, following a six-month break, showed Goldsmith criticised Blair for publicly suggesting Britain could invade without further UN backing, despite his advice to the contrary.

Gaps in evidence

Goldsmith was "uncomfortable" with statements Blair made before the invasion.

In January 2003, Goldsmith advised Blair that the existing United Nations Security Council resolution was not enough to justify an invasion.

Blair is expected to be questioned on gaps in the evidence he gave in his first appearance and on apparent discrepancies between his account and official documents and other witnesses' testimony.

Blair on Friday also defended his decision to refuse to release secret memos he wrote to Bush.

"The notes to President Bush were very private. They were written when I wished to get a change or adjustment to policy. They had to be confidential," he said in the statement.

"The personal relationship was a vital part of the country's strategic relationship."

In his highly charged appearance before the inquiry last year, Blair said he had no regrets about the toppling of "monster" Saddam Hussein and delivered a robust defence of the invasion.

The inquiry, launched in July 2009, aims to identify lessons that can be learned from the conflict, to which Britain was the second largest contributor of troops.

Blair served as Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007.

  • cammaratagerardo - 2011-01-21 13:10

    Blair and Bush should be tried and executed as war criminals. - 2011-01-21 13:22

      I agree brother. Both of those evil puppets led troops for false flag reasons and butchered thousands of innocent Women and Children to obtain their one true goal.....OIL.

      Derek - 2011-01-21 13:28

      Agreed - Bush needs to answer for 9/11 as well. Something fishy there.

      robertgunning - 2011-01-21 14:25

      I also agree.... Their main driving point was greed.

      roboman1 - 2011-01-21 14:56

      the only thing they should be prosecuted for is not getting rid of Mugabe at the same time. Now that was criminal, leaving Mugabe in power! (Just because Zim has no oil was no excuse!)

  • peckhg - 2011-01-21 13:23

    Never confuse authority with power....:-)

  • Free-mind - 2011-01-21 14:09

    "Tony Blair said on Friday he was determined to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam Hussein despite legal concerns".....but after years of looking, there were no arms found!!! - 2011-01-21 16:05

      There were never any to begin with and thousands died for greed :(

      Jaimo - 2011-01-21 20:04

      The arms (lots of it) were trucked into Syria! The convoys were tracked by satelite.

  • Neutedop - 2011-01-21 14:12

    Rewind, and do it again! Don't appoligize for doing away with a person who killed, executed and stoned people to death! Most people commenting have never seen Iraq - or like Derek Afganistan - All they know it what a filmmaker taught them. Truly sad! The day your wife gets stoned to death because she is accused of seeing another man, or her hands get chopped off because she wears Cutex - then you'll only probally agree!

      cammaratagerardo - 2011-01-21 14:19

      So why hasn't the USA invaded China yet? Or North Korea? LOL dude. You sound like a Bush sympathiser.

      Fazil - 2011-01-21 14:24

      I am amazed at your exaggerated intelligence. you seem to confuse Saddam the Monster and the local culture. As a amatter of interest if you are caught stealing you will also be dealt with swiftly.Let see in SA,Whites kill their family , Blacks murder etc so we need to remove their leadership? The attck on Iraq had all to do with Western hegemony in the region and nothing to do with justice. With over a million dead since sanctions and the first Gulf War, Bush and Blair must face Justice and if convicted ...eliminated...phew ..just like that.

      Irené - 2011-01-21 14:55

      Neutedop, oulikke naam, beskryf seker wat iun jou brein kan inpas. All in a nutshell... You are seriousluy delusional if you think Bush and Blair gives a crap for any of the Iraqi or Afghan civilians. tHis has nothing to do with liberating the poeple. Its greed and money, you twat. Shoot these morons (bush and blair) in their kneecaps and leave them in a dessert to die. They are evil

      roboman1 - 2011-01-21 14:58

      My wife gets stoned often, I try and hide the stuff away from her, but she always finds it!

      cammaratagerardo - 2011-01-21 15:02

      @Irené: what dessert would you suggest? Malva pudding? :p - 2011-01-21 16:13

      NEUTEDOP if they went into Iraq to save the people why are the people still bombing them and begging the USA to leave their sovereign country? Why was no weapons of mass destruction found TO THIS DAY? Why was a pipeline built within a year of the original illegal invasion to pump Oil out of Iraq and into Kuwait if they were only there to save lives? Why was the original plans for the invasion deemed illegal by the UN before the USA and Britain put pressure on them to change their opinions? Why are you such a retarded retard?

  • Jaimo - 2011-01-21 19:58

    Shame, poor little Tony, he's even started to look like a Catholic!

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