British Prime Minister Tony Blair will this week prepare the ground for a major climbdown on Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction when he acknowledges the need to come clean over the failure to uncover any banned weapons. \nAmid growing jitters in senior government circles, as US President George Bush prepares to approve an independent inquiry into the apparent intelligence failure, a member of the Cabinet indicated on Sunday that ministers in Britain might eventually hold MI6 responsible. \nIn a move that is likely to enrage MI6, the House of Commons leader, Peter Hain, declared that the Cabinet approved the overthrow of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on the basis of "categoric" intelligence. \n"I saw evidence, it was categoric on Saddam possessing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction," Hain told BBC One. "That informed our decision to go to topple him. I think we were right in doing so. But let's wait and see what the jury finds in the end." \nHis remarks, which highlighted the intense discussions at the highest levels of government, came as the White House prepares to support an independent inquiry into why intelligence appears to have been so flawed. \nBritain is steadfastly resisting pressure for an inquiry on the grounds that the Iraq survey group, which is scouring the country for banned weapons, should be allowed to continue its work. But a well placed government source indicated Downing Street now acknowledges it is no longer tenable for the prime minister to demand that people await the findings of the survey group. \nBlair is expected to adopt the new approach in public today when he faces questions from the cross-party liaison committee of senior backbench members of parliament. During his appearance, and when he takes the lead in a Commons debate on the Hutton report the next day, Blair is expected to acknowledge the need to explain the failure to uncover any banned weapons so far. \nA series of factors have persuaded Downing Street to change tack: \n -- The White House decision to change its stance on banned weapons, highlighted last week when Bush all but cast himself as an aggrieved member of the public who wants to "know the facts." \n -- The admission by David Kay, departing chief of the Iraq survey group, that the US was "almost all wrong" about Iraq's weapons programs. \n -- Lord Hutton's finding last week that neither the prime minister, nor anyone else in Downing Street, had "sexed up" the September 2002 arms dossier which was used to justify action against Iraq. \nThe "not guilty" verdict from Lord Hutton was a crucial factor. \n"It is important that we can address these questions without accusations of having falsified the evidence," the senior government source said. \n"But it is also valid to point out that the interim report of the Iraqi survey group showed evidence of weapons programs and evidence of concealment. The factual basis has not changed, but the climate has," the source said. \nBlair will choose his words carefully because failure to uncover banned weapons represents a greater political threat to him than it does to Bush, who never used Iraq's banned weapons as the main reason for going to war. \nThe senior government source cautioned last night that the prime minister will not hold up his hands and admit he was wrong when he declared in September 2002, on the day the arms dossier was published, that Iraq's banned weapons program was "active, detailed, and growing." \nBlair will also resist pressure to hold an independent inquiry into the apparent intelligence failure, despite demands from the Tories. \nDowning Street's change of tack comes amid growing realization among British intelligence officials that no weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq. Senior Whitehall officials say that if none are found, it will be extremely damaging for the intelligence agencies.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year