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Secret papers show Attorney General`s warning to Blair on Iraq

Former UK PM Tony Blair was warned by his Attorney General in 2003 that an invasion of Iraq would be illegal just before he privately assured President George Bush he would support US-led military action against Saddam Hussein.



London: Former British Prime Minister Tony
Blair was warned by his Attorney General in 2003 that an
invasion of Iraq would be illegal just before he privately
assured President George Bush he would support US-led military
action against Saddam Hussein.

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith repeatedly warned the
prime minister of the potential consequences of invading Iraq
without fresh UN authority - much to Blair`s irritation,
according to documents released by the Chilcot inquiry.
Goldsmith changed his view shortly before the
invasion on March 20, 2003.

The papers were declassified by Sir Gus O`Donnell,
the cabinet secretary. In a letter to Sir John Chilcot, he
said he did so because of the "very exceptional" nature of
the inquiry.

It was a "longstanding convention" that legal advice
to ministers was not published but arguments about the
legality of the war in Iraq had a "unique status", O`Donnell
said.

Documents released include a note, marked secret and
dated January 30, 2003.

"In view of your meeting with President Bush on
Friday," Goldsmith told Blair, "I thought you might wish to
know where I stand on the question of whether a further
decision of the (UN) Security Council is legally required in
order to authorise the use of force against Iraq."

Goldsmith warned Blair that he "remained of the view
that the correct legal interpretation of resolution 1441 (the
last security council decision on Iraq) is that it does not
authorise the use of force without a further determination by
the Security Council."
Goldsmith concluded: "My view remains that a further
(UN) decision is required."

A handwritten note, believed to be by David Manning,
Blair`s chief foreign policy adviser, warned: "Clear advice
from attorney on need for further resolution."

Demonstrating his frustration with Goldsmith, Blair
scrawled in the margin: "I just don`t understand this."

An aide wrote: "Specifically said we did not need
further advice (on) this matter."

The following day, January 31, 2003, Blair flew to
Washington for a meeting with Bush.

Manning records the president - in a minute previously
disclosed - telling Blair that military action would be taken
with or without a second Security Council resolution and the
bombing would begin in mid-March 2003.

The note records Blair`s reaction: "The prime minister
said he was solidly with the president."

PTI

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