Blair shifts stand on Iraqi WMDs
London, July 9
Shifting stand on WMDs, Blair avers during House committee grilling Saddam removal was right. Prime Minister Tony Blair has subtly shifted his stand over the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that Iraq was supposed to possess.
He appears to be preparing the ground for a failure to find any live weapons. Appearing before a Common's Committee he said that failure to find WMDs were a real possibility. He only sought time for the Survey Group to find evidence that Saddam Hussain had WMDs.
But throughout the grilling by a Common's committee he robustly defended the Government's dossier and stood by the validity of the intelligence that formed its background. Officials said only time would tell, but no one could be certain that Saddam Hussain had not destroyed the WMDs. Observers here said that Mr Blair's words appeared to chime with a subtle shift in rhetoric by Bush Administration.
Blair, who was said to have been "robust" throughout the grilling, rejected the observation on Monday of the Foreign Affairs Committee that the jury was still out on the claims of the Iraqi threat.
"I'm afraid in that regard, for me the jury is not out? I think it's perfectly clear, as we made plain in the September dossier last year, that Saddam, once he realised, as he did back last September, weapons inspectors were coming back in, was then going to engage in an active programme of concealment."
On being asked if he would concede that, if no WMDs were found, the case for war was faulty, he said, " I don't concede it at all that the intelligence at the time was wrong." He said that the Survey Group should be given time to come up with evidence of Iraq's weapons.
Blair also refused to admit that the House had been deliberately misled. "I am quite sure we did the right thing in removing Saddam Hussain? Not merely he was a threat to his region, but it was an appalling regime that the world is well rid of. So I refute any suggestion that we misled either Parliament or the people totally."
He strongly refuted the allegations broadcast by BBC that the second dossier was sexed up. He instead said, " I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of WMDs programme." He had a ready answer to the question that if Saddam had WMDs why did he not use them. Mr Blair said once Saddam started on the programme of concealment it placed an inhibition on his ability to use them quickly.