British Prime Minister Tony Blair, facing persistent questions about his government's use of intelligence material on former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction, told lawmakers yesterday that he had made a valid case for military action in Iraq.
"I stick by that case totally," Blair said during one of his regular appearances before the House of Commons Liaison Committee.
"I am quite sure we did the right thing in removing Saddam Hussein because not merely was he a threat ... to the wider world but it was an appalling regime that the world is well rid of.
"I refute any suggestion that we misled Parliament or the people," Blair said.
On Monday, another parliamentary committee sharply criticized the government's handling of intelligence on Iraqi weapons. The Foreign Affairs Committee said Blair "misrepresented" the status of a dossier published in January.
Blair had referred to it as "further intelligence," although he acknowledged later that it contained material from a graduate thesis published on the Internet. The committee, however, cleared ministers of deliberately misleading lawmakers.
The committee said that another dossier on Iraqi weapons, published in September, gave undue prominence to an uncorroborated claim that Iraq could deploy biological or chemical weapons within 45 minutes of an order being given. It also said the "jury is still out" on the accuracy of the information contained in the intelligence document.
"The jury is not out at all," Blair retorted yesterday.
"You would almost think that this question about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction was somehow invented by the CIA and British intelligence. There is no doubt that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction," he said.
The government is under pressure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as the danger posed by Saddam's alleged illicit weapons program was the reason Britain gave for going to war.
Blair said yesterday he was under no doubt that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq.
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