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Sunday September 14, 10:29 AM British FM urged Blair not to go to war on Iraq, claims new book British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made a last-minute plea to Prime Minister Tony Blair not to go to war on Iraq, but the plea was rejected, a new book serialised in a newspaper claims. According to the book, Straw sent a memo to the prime minister days before the conflict broke out in March, urging him to tell US President George W. Bush that Britain would offer moral and political support, but no combat troops. But Blair rejected the advice, and demanded an assurance that Straw would support the war despite his reservations, says the book by political journalist John Kampfner, entitled "Blair's Wars", to be published on September 22. Neither the Foreign Office nor Blair's office would make any comment on the claim, saying only: "We have nothing to say about that." Straw is one of Blair's most loyal allies and was one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war in public, regularly appearing before the cameras to argue that it was the right course to take. According to excerpts in the right-wing Mail on Sunday, Kampfner's book also alleges that Blair had secretly agreed to go to war as early as April 2002, when he had a summit with Bush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. And it claims that Blair himself had doubts about intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which formed the basis of his justification for war, and had received evidence that Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons capability was actually diminishing. According to Kampfner, Straw confronted the prime minister on his return from an eve-of-war summit with Bush in the Azores on March 16. He sent Blair a personal memo warning that going to war without an explicit United Nations resolution would be damaging for Britain, the book says. Instead, Straw suggested Blair could offer to deploy British troops for peacekeeping and reconstruction work after the end of the conflict. But he was told his intervention had come too late and war was now certain. Kampfner, who is political editor of the New Statesman magazine, wrote that Blair asked Straw "to clarify whether or not he would support the war, now that it was definitely going to happen. "Straw said he would. They agreed to put the issue behind them. Having expressed his reservations and seen them rejected, Straw fell firmly into line, arguing the case for war with as much vigour as anyone else." The allegations in the book follow the revelation in a parliamentary report last week that Blair overruled advice from intelligence chiefs that war on Iraq could increase the likelihood of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists. Meanwhile, the Observer newspaper reported Sunday that new evidence from the intelligence services had cast fresh doubts over Blair's claim that Iraq continued to produce chemical and biological weapons until the outbreak of war. The paper said that newly disclosed government documents showed that the prime minister's assertion was based only on a single source, and had been attacked as "too strong" by an unnamed senior intelligence official. The production claim remained in the government's controversial September 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons, despite warnings from experts, the Observer said. The paper also reported that a second internal memo from a Defence Intelligence official, four days before the September dossier's publication, said the file "still includes a number of statements not supported by the evidence available to me". The memo continued that it had not been established "beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons". Allegations that Blair's government "sexed up" intelligence in the run-up to the war on Iraq, together with the suicide of British weapons scientist David Kelly, have hurled Blair into his worst crisis in six years in power. A judicial inquiry into Kelly's death resumes Monday. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright © 2002 AFP. All rights reserved. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk