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[casi] from today's papers: 25-07-02

A. MPs rebel against Blair's backing for US attack on Iraq, Independent, 25
B. Blair sidesteps Williams plea over Iraq, The Times, 25 July
C. Danger of Saddam still in doubt, The Times, 25 July
D. Slip-up raises Iraq invasion suspicions


[Letter writers: remember to include your address and telephone number and
that the Times require exclusivity]

Several of today's papers pick-up on Tony Blair's 'slip of the tongue' in
yesterday's Parliamentary debate - referring to 'when' the decision to
attack Iraq is made, rather than 'if.' There are also several references to
Blair's rejection of the need for new UN authorisation in order for such an
attack to be legal.

Incidentally, I was unable to find '27 resolutions about Iraq's weapons
programme' on the complete list of resolutions on the CASI web-site
( The best I could do
was 15!

Best wishes,


A. MPs rebel against Blair's backing for US attack on Iraq
By Andrew Grice Political Editor

25 July 2002

Tony Blair faced an open rebellion from Labour MPs yesterday over his strong
backing for President George Bush's plans to take military action against

On the last day before the Commons' three-month summer break, Labour
backbenchers demanded an emergency recall of Parliament before any British
troops were deployed.

They tackled the Prime Minister when he addressed the private weekly meeting
of Labour MPs and later ambushed him during Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Blair promised that Parliament would be consulted, although this is
unlikely to happen before British forces become involved. His official
spokesman said: "There is a balance between the desire to consult and
operational necessity."

The Government is expected to deny the Commons a formal vote on action in
Iraq because an estimated 100 Labour MPs could rebel against it. Instead,
the issue would be debated under a motion on whether to adjourn the House.

Alice Mahon, one of three MPs to raise the issue of Iraq at the
Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, accused Mr Blair of "the usual
stonewalling" and voiced disappointment with his response to queries on
whether a new United Nations mandate would be needed for action against
Saddam Hussein.

Diane Abbott, another backbench critic, told the Commons that Britain could
be "at war with Iraq" before it returned from its summer recess. She asked
Mr Blair whether he took seriously the call by Rowan Williams, the new
Archbishop of Canterbury, for a "fresh and distinct" UN mandate.

The former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle led the calls for the Commons to
be recalled before military action is taken. They were echoed by Tam
Dalyell, the longest-serving MP.

Mr Blair replied: "Weapons of mass destruction are a serious threat. It is
important we deal with it. How we deal with it is an open question."

He said whatever action was taken would have to be "legally justified", but
refused to commit himself to securing a fresh UN mandate, claiming that
President Saddam was in breach of virtually all of the 27 UN resolutions
already passed on Iraq. "We have not taken the decision to commit British
forces at all," he said. "So, when that decision is made, we will consider
the best way to consult the House in the normal way and in the normal
circumstances." His official spokesman said later that Mr Blair's use of the
word "when" was a slip of the tongue, and that he had meant to say "if".

Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, challenged the Prime Minister
over criticism by a Commons committee of Britain's preparations to deal with
the terrorism threat. He said there had been a "lack of grip and direction"
from the Government.

But Mr Blair dismissed the criticism, saying: "I don't accept that we have
not made the most urgent preparations following 11 September."

In his end-of-term rallying call to Labour MPs, Mr Blair said the party
needed to be "ferociously committed" to reforming the public services to
make sure the extra money announced in last week's Comprehensive Spending
Review was used well.

Despite the divisions that had been demonstrated on Tuesday by Mr Duncan
Smith's reshuffle, he said the Tories would still pose a threat at the next
general election.

B. Blair sidesteps Williams plea over Iraq
By David Charter, Chief Political Correspondent

The Times
July 25, 2002

TONY BLAIR yesterday refused to back the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury’
s call for a fresh United Nations mandate before military action is taken
against Iraq.

Asked whether he supported the views of Dr Rowan Williams reported in The
Times yesterday, the Mr Blair told MPs that Iraq had broken 27 successive UN
resolutions on developing weapons of mass destruction. A series of Labour
MPs called on Mr Blair to show restraint against Iraq at Prime Minister’s
Questions and won a promise that Parliament would be consulted “when that
decision is made”. Mr Blair’s spokesman insisted later that use of the word
“when” was a slip; the Prime Minister meant to say “if”.

Labour MPs also called for restraint against Iraq at the private
Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, reflecting fears of action before the
Commons reconvenes in October. Mr Blair pledged that any military attack
would be “legal and justified” and there would be “ample consultation”. He
said Britain had evidence that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, was
developing weapons of mass destruction.

Alice Mahon (Lab, Halifax) accused Mr Blair of “the usual stonewalling” for
sidestepping Dr Williams’s call for UN clearance for military action.

Paul Flynn (Lab, Newport West), who is Dr Williams’s MP, said MPs were not
satisfied with Mr Blair’s response. Mr Flynn added: “We would all sleep more
comfortably in our beds if Tony Blair listened to Dr Williams rather than
George Bush.”

C. Danger of Saddam still in doubt
Political Briefing by Peter Riddell

The Times
July 25, 2002

TONY BLAIR has yet to make a convincing public case for military action
against Iraq. Nobody in the Commons — well almost nobody — disputes that
Saddam Hussein is an odious dictator, with an appalling record of war crimes
and human rights abuses, as well as a desire to acquire and develop weapons
of mass destruction. But that is not the same as demonstrating that Iraq
has, or will shortly have, the ability to use such weapons.

As the Commons was about to start its near 12-week-long summer recess last
night, Mr Blair came under pressure from some Labour MPs over Iraq, both at
the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting and at Prime Minister’s Questions.
They were worried that action might be taken during the recess and wanted
assurances that Parliament would be recalled beforehand, so MPs would have a
chance to express their views.

This concern, while perfectly legitimate, misses the main point. First,
despite all yesterday’s conspiracy theories, there is no evidence that the
US, either on its own or with allies, is likely to attack Iraq over the next
three months. Secondly, such action would involve a lengthy, and visible,
build-up. So there would be ample time for Parliament to be recalled, and Mr
Blair yesterday offered assurances about consultation.

A more pertinent point is whether there should be a further United Nations
resolution before any military action, as Dr Rowan Williams, the next
Archbishop of Canterbury, among others, has argued. Mr Blair has repeatedly
been evasive on this question, referring back, quite legitimately, to Iraq’s
defiance of a large number of past UN resolutions.

But the central question is whether Iraq presents a “clear and present
danger” justifying going beyond containment to pre-emptive military action.
This is not about any general links between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda:
British Intelligence believes there is no connection between Iraq and the
September 11 attacks. The main focus is on weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Blair believes Saddam’s programme presents “a gathering threat”, pointing
to his obstruction of demands that UN weapons inspectors should be allowed
back into Iraq unconditionally. In his interview with Prospect magazine, Mr
Blair says: “Be in no doubt at all that he is certainly trying to acquire
weapons of mass destruction, in particular a nuclear capability.”

Yet the foreign policy and intelligence world is unclear on whether Saddam
is, or is near being, able to deploy such weapons. My hunch is that the bulk
of British opinion will back military action if they believe Saddam is about
to use these weapons: an actual, as opposed to a potential, threat.

Mr Blair has said that “if the time comes for action, people will have the
evidence presented to them”. He has not produced this information yet
because it would prematurely raise the temperature.

Some senior ministers still suggest/hope that an attack on Iraq may be put
off indefinitely because of the risks involved. This may be wishful
thinking. If it is, Mr Blair needs to present more detailed evidence than he
has so far.

D. Slip-up raises Iraq invasion suspicions
By Andy McSmith, Chief Political Correspondent

Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 25/07/2002)

Tony Blair was accused of "stonewalling" yesterday after being questioned by
Labour MPs who suspect that British troops will be sent to war with Iraq
while Parliament is on its summer break.

Officially no decision has been made regarding an invasion, but MPs'
suspicions were heightened by a remark from Mr Blair in the Commons
yesterday. He said "when" rather than "if" it is decided to move against
Saddam Hussein. His spokesman suggested that the Prime Minister had made a
slip of the tongue.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, added to suspicions by playing host last
night to the largest ever gathering of Muslims in a government building in
this country.

The reception for about 600 prominent British Muslims and representatives of
Muslim countries was billed as part of Mr Straw's campaign to improve
relations with Muslim communities and ensure their support in the war
against extremism.

A Foreign Office source said: "You shouldn't read into it any attempt to
soften up Muslim opinion on any particular issue."

At a private meeting with Labour MPs and later at Prime Minister's
Questions, Mr Blair avoided giving anything away.

More than 130 Labour MPs and nearly 30 MPs from other parties have signed a
Commons motion warning that military action would be "unwise", and Alice
Mahon, one of the leading rebels described his answers as "the usual

Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister, urged Mr Blair to recall
Parliament for an emergency session if war began during the summer break,
which started last night.

The Prime Minister promised MPs that they would be consulted, but ducked a
question from Tam Dalyell on whether the consultation would take place
before an invasion or after it had begun. Mr Blair said: "When the decision
is made, we will consider the best way of consulting the House, in the
normal way and in the normal circumstances."

The Prime Minister also failed to back the view expressed by Dr Rowan
Williams, the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury, and others, that a fresh
UN mandate would be needed. He said the UN had passed 27 resolutions about
Iraq's weapons programme and Saddam Hussein had breached virtually every

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