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For your attention
by threehegemons
02 April 2002 00:06 UTC
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Steven Sherman spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you 
should see it.

Note from Steven Sherman:

Sounds like even Blair is no longer completely on board for an Iraq war.

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to 

Blair steps back from Iraq fight
Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton-Taylor
Sunday March 31 2002
The Observer

The government has indefinitely delayed publishing a dossier revealing damning 
evidence against Saddam Hussein, just days before Tony Blair flies out to meet 
President George Bush at the weekend to discuss a possible military strike on 

In a sign that Britain recognises that open prosecution of a war against Iraq 
is politically impossible, Downing Street has deferred plans to publish the 
report, which purports to show how Saddam is defying the UN by building weapons 
of mass destruction. The dossier, trailed by the No 10 press secretary, 
Alastair Campbell, will now be published when "it is believed to be 

Downing Street feared that publication would add to the fevered speculation of 
an imminent strike, as well as exacerbate dissent on the Labour backbenches.  

Labour MPs considered the outlines of the evidence to be unconvincing. There 
has also been some pressure on the intelligence agencies to declassify 
documents to improve the quality of the evidence. Leading members of the 
British clergy also yesterday warned the prime minister against a military 
strike and called on the US to publish its evidence.  

Mr Blair published a similar dossier in the run-up to the military strikes 
against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the wake of September 11 attacks.  

The new dossier, compiled by US and British intelligence, was designed to 
reveal incontrovertible evidence that the Iraqi leader was assembling weapons 
of mass destruction in defiance of UN security council resolutions, and would 
have been used to prepare European public opinion for some form of military 
action if Saddam continued to build up his military arsenal.  

A dossier on Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capabilities was 
drawn up earlier this month by the Cabinet Office's joint intelligence 
committee chaired by John Scarlett, a former MI6 officer, after intense 
discussions within the intelligence community about what should be published 
and how much speculation it should contain.  

In the end it was agreed that the dossier should be "factual", and not contain 
speculation. MI6 was also concerned that it should not contain any information 
that could threaten its intelligence sources, according to Whitehall officials. 

However, many of the new allegations about Iraq's programme for weapons of mass 
destruction are based on assumption and speculation. Though the dossier 
contains evidence about Baghdad's development of biological weapons - including 
anthrax and botulinum toxin - it is largely based on what was discovered by UN 
weapons inspectors back in 1998.  

Even the CIA admits that intelligence gathered after that date, when the 
weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq, is far from reliable.  

Britain's security and intelligence agencies also dismiss US claims that 
Mohammed Atta, the leading hijacker in the September 11 attacks, previously met 
an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague.  

Mr Blair's talks with Mr Bush in Texas at the weekend are likely to focus as 
much on the current explosion of violence in the Middle East as on Iraq, and 
the growing European demands for Israel to rethink its policy of repression.  

The two leaders will discuss the political, military and diplomatic 
consequences of military action, including the need for a specific UN 
resolution supporting the action.  

Mr Blair will press for sanctions against Iraq to be revised, and for clear 
demands to be imposed on Saddam's future behaviour. The leaders will also 
assess the scale of the continuing Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, including 
an offensiveby British troops. 

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

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