[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
Blair stands '100%' by weapons claims
Tony Blair at the G8 summit
Blair says there was no secret deal about a date for war
Tony Blair has rejected calls for an official inquiry into the government's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking at the G8 summit in Evian, Mr Blair said he stood "100%" by the evidence shown to the public about Iraq's alleged weapons programmes.

"Frankly, the idea that we doctored intelligence reports in order to invent some notion about a 45-minute capability for delivering weapons of mass destruction is completely and totally false," he said.

Calls for an inquiry were made after ex-cabinet minister Clare Short said Prime Minister Tony Blair had "duped" the country into going to war.

Another former cabinet minister, Robin Cook, who resigned over the war, said the government had clearly sent troops into battle "on the basis of a mistake" and an inquiry should be held.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said only a special Commons select committee inquiry could end the "rumour and recrimination".

The Conservatives said they were giving "serious consideration" to whether to call for an independent inquiry.

'No secret deal'

Asked about the inquiry calls, Mr Blair said: "It is important that if people actually have evidence they produce it.

"But it is wrong frankly for people to make allegations on the basis of so-called anonymous sources when the facts are precisely the facts as stated."

The prime minister also branded as "completely and totally untrue" Ms Short's claim that he and US President George Bush had secretly agreed a date for invading Iraq last September.

He appealed for people to have a "little patience" as an international survey group was this week starting to interview Iraqi scientists and investigate potential arms sites.

I stand absolutely 100% behind the evidence based on intelligence that we presented to people
Tony Blair

"I stand absolutely 100% behind the evidence based on intelligence that we presented to people," said Mr Blair.

UK experts believed two mobile biological weapons facilities had been found, and were part of a whole series of similar units, he added.

The weapons rows on both sides of the Atlantic were likely to have been on the agenda when Mr Blair met Mr Bush for private talks on Monday morning.

Shadow chancellor Michael Howard said there was "a good deal of strength" in the argument for an inquiry.

He said the Tory leadership had no doubt that Saddam had access to weapons of mass destruction, and that the war had been justified.

But he added: "There is a separate question, which is whether the government told the truth in the run-up to the war, whether the government did try to... doctor the intelligence."

Much of the row has centred on the claim made in a government dossier published before the war that Iraq had chemical weapons capable of being used within 45 minutes of an order.

Commons motion

Ms Short said she believed the claim was made to hurry the public into a war, a date for which had secretly been agreed between Mr Blair and Mr Bush.

Mr Cook told Channel 4 News: "How much evidence does Tony Blair actually want?

"He said that there were weapons that could be used in 45 minutes. There are no such weapons."

More than 50 Labour MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for the publication of the full Government evidence on Iraqi weapons.

Anti-war Labour MP Graham Allen urged Parliament to set a deadline of August 20 for Britain and the US to find evidence of Iraq's banned weapons.

That would give them 110 days - the same time given to the United Nations weapons inspectors.

"If the allies cannot produce an internationally-verified discovery by August 20, Britain can conclude that the terrible warnings before the war about the imminent threat from Saddam's weapons were totally wrong," he said.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Tony Blair still insists the evidence will turn up"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific