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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
Blair 'delayed US strike on Iraq'
Tony Blair and George Bush
Bush and Blair: British leader prevented 2001 attack on Iraq
US President George Bush was persuaded by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair not to attack Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks, it has been claimed.

According to a former British ambassador to Washington, the US president had come under intense pressure from some in his own military to attack Saddam Hussein in the days after the 2001 terrorist outrages in the US.

But, said Sir Christopher Meyer, when Mr Blair met the US president at his Camp David retreat a few days later he succesfully argued for al-Qaeda and the Taleban regime in Afghanistan to be confronted first.

"Tony Blair's view was: 'Whatever you're going to do about Iraq, you should concentrate on the job at hand and the job at hand was get al-Qaeda, give the Taleban an ultimatum'," Sir Christopher said.

The former ambassador was speaking on a documentary that will be screened on the PBS network in America on Thursday.

Called Blair's War, it looks at the prime minister's attempts to try and maintain an alliance against Saddam Hussein.

'Leave Iraq'

He said that after listening to Mr Blair's argument, Mr Bush decided to "leave Iraq for another day".

Sir Christopher also said that after the Taleban had been removed from power, Mr Blair told the US leader he would need to exhaust peaceful options before he could attack Iraq.

Blair and Bush
Blair and Bush's alliance did not meet worldwide support

He said the prime minister had offered to act as an envoy to try and persuade European leaders to back a US attack.

"Blair said: 'If you want to do this you can do this on your own, you have the military strength to go into Iraq and do it, but our advice to you is even a great superpower like the US needs to do this with partners and allies'," Sir Christopher said.

He added that many world leaders were alarmed after Mr Bush announced plans for a pre-emptive strike on Saddam Hussein's regime.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's current ambassador to the United Nations, has also been interviewed in the programme, and he said diplomats had failed to fix divisions in the Western alliance after the first resolution had been passed.

"They were differences which we knew about, looking back, I think that was a mistake of diplomacy that we didn't try and deal with those nuances that turned in to ravines by the end of the game."

He said he had been especially surprised that France continued to oppose military action.




SEE ALSO:
'UN door opening' on Iraq - Blair
28 Mar 03  |  Politics
Tony Blair's unlikely partnership
28 Mar 03  |  Americas
Blair positive on UN Iraq role
28 Mar 03  |  Politics
Roped together for the war
28 Mar 03  |  Politics
Presenting a united front
27 Mar 03  |  Politics


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