13 Jan 2010

Blair spokesperson denies Iraq threat exaggerated

8:35 am on 13 January 2010

Former British prime minister Tony Blair's ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell says the 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction did not misrepresent the threat from Saddam's weapons.

Mr Campbell, who was Mr Blair's spokesperson before and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, has been giving evidence to an inquiry in the UK into the Iraq war.

He told the inquiry he defends every single word of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, although he said it could have been been "clearer", the BBC reports.

The inquiry is seeking clarification from Mr Campbell of his role in drawing up the dossier of evidence suggesting that the then Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction.

Campaigners have suggested the threat was deliberately exaggerated to provide a pretext for the war, which Mr Campbell strongly denies.

In questions lasting four hours he denied claims Mr Blair shifted to back regime change after a US summit, saying that Mr Blair had hoped to disarm Iraq via the UN right up to the war.

But he also revealed the prime minister had written privately to President Bush several times in 2002 signalling that the UK "will be there" should diplomacy fail and military action take place.

Mr Campbell said the prime minister recognised the deep opposition to military action amongst much of the British public but believed there would be a "bigger day of reckoning" to come with Saddam if he was not confronted at the time.

He said Tony Blair never asked him to do anything improper.