Blair 'backed Iraq war while seeking UN resolution'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told US President George Bush he backed military action against Iraq while still seeking a …

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told US President George Bush he backed military action against Iraq while still seeking a second UN resolution authorising an invasion, it was reported tonight.

Claims that the Prime Minister said he was "solidly behind" American plans at a summit in January 2003 are contained in a new book by a human rights lawyer. Channel 4 News and the Guardian Unlimited website said tonight they had seen the memorandum from that meeting, which is the source of the allegations.

Mr Bush is quoted as saying the US would "put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'". He is said to have told Mr Blair if that did not succeed then "military action would follow anyway".

And, the reports claimed, Mr Blair replied he was "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam". A second UN Security Council resolution "would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs", Mr Blair is said to have made clear.


The claims about the meeting - less than three months before the invasion happened - are contained in a new edition of Lawless World by Philippe Sands QC which is published tomorrow. It also claims a number of extreme measures aimed at provoking Saddam Hussein were floated by Mr Bush at the meeting.

The US President is said to have told Mr Blair the US "was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach".

"It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."

The book also claims the President "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". At a press conference after the 2003 summit, the British Prime Minister stressed the need to "mobilise the international community".

The US President agreed a second United Nations Security Council resolution authorising force would be "welcome" but said it was not a necessity. And he said the matter would "come to a head in a matter of weeks, not months" Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Menzies Campbell said the allegations made a full inquiry into the political decision making on Iraq "imperative".

"If these allegations are accurate, the Prime Minister and President Bush were determined to go to war with or without a second UN resolution, and Britain was signed up to do so by the end of January 2003.

"By then it was clear that there was no credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction - the stated justification for the moves against Saddam Hussein. "The fact that consideration was apparently given to using American military aircraft in UN colours to provoke Saddam graphically illustrates the rush to war.

"It would appear that the diplomatic efforts in New York after the meeting of January 31 were simply going through the motions, with the decision for military action already taken.

"The Prime Minister's offer of February 25 to Saddam Hussein appears to be undermined by claims. The Prime Minister has a lot of explaining to do." On February 25, Mr Blair had told MPs Saddam had one "further final chance" to disarm voluntarily or face war, and said he was prepared to go "the extra step" to achieve disarmament peacefully.

"I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully. "I do not want war. I do not believe anyone in this House wants war. But disarmament peacefully can only happen with Saddam's active cooperation".