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THE WORLD

Panel: Blair Was Warned About Risks

September 12, 2003|From Reuters

LONDON — A parliamentary report revealed Thursday that intelligence officials had warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that invading Iraq would increase the risks posed by terrorists, and it criticized a key British argument for going to war.

The Intelligence and Security Committee said a claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was "unhelpful" because it did not make clear that it referred only to short-range battlefield munitions.

The "45 minutes" claim was the most dramatic element of a September 2002 dossier that Blair used to counter intense opposition to Britain's joining a U.S.-led war against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The committee also said intelligence officials warned Blair that invading Iraq would increase the risk of militants' obtaining chemical or biological weapons.

Undermining a main U.S. argument for toppling Hussein, the officials had warned Feb. 10, five weeks before U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq, that "any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists."

The committee cleared the Blair government of claims that it hyped the dossier, declaring that the document honestly reflected assessments at the time.

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