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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 08:54 GMT
Blair under fire from top clergy
Dr David Hope
Dr Hope said Mr Blair would have to answer to God
Tony Blair has been criticised by two Church of England leaders for his handling of the war in Iraq.

Dr David Hope, the Archbishop of York, questioned the legitimacy of the war and warned that the prime minister would have to answer in the end to God.

And the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, called Mr Blair a "vigilante".

The criticism comes a day after the US official running Iraq contradicted Mr Blair's claim the country had labs for developing weapons of mass destruction.

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said it was time for the government to admit it had been wrong about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Dr Hope, Britain's second most senior church leader, criticised Mr Blair for not listening to opponents during the war in Iraq.

For Bush and Blair to go into Iraq together was like a bunch of white vigilantes going into Brixton to stop drug-dealing
Bishop of Durham

In an interview in the Times, he said: "We still have not found any weapons of mass destruction anywhere.

"Are we likely to find any? Does that alter the view as to whether we really ought to have mounted the invasion or not?

"Undoubtedly a very wicked leader has been removed but there are wicked leaders in other parts of the world."

'Not credible'

Dr Wright said he did not think Mr Blair and US President George W Bush had the credibility to deal with the problems in Iraq.

"For Bush and Blair to go into Iraq together was like a bunch of white vigilantes going into Brixton to stop drug-dealing," he told the Independent.

"This is not to deny there's a problem to be sorted, just that they are not credible people to deal with it."

It is undignified for the prime minister to continue to insist he was right when everyone can see he was wrong
Robin Cook
Former cabinet minister

Mr Blair has staunchly defended his decision to go to war and said he was "ready to meet my maker".

Dr Hope warned him: "There is a higher authority before whom one day we all have to give an account."

Mr Cook warned Mr Blair he might never win back public trust after the Iraq war.

On Sunday, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, appeared to contradict a statement made by Mr Blair that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had unearthed "massive evidence" of clandestine labs.

It was not true, said Mr Bremer, and it sounded like a "red herring" made up by someone to upset the rebuilding effort.

'Undignified'

Mr Cook said the ISG report had only reported laboratories which were suitable for chemical research.

The prime minister had tried to turn that "innocuous" finding into a threat when everyone in Britain could see Saddam Hussein had not had weapons of mass destruction, he argued.

"It really is time that the prime minister accepted that himself," Mr Cook told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It is undignified for the prime minister to continue to insist he was right when everyone can see he was wrong," he added.

On Sunday, Downing Street was standing by the prime minister's comments, which they said referred to "already published material" in an interim report by the Iraq Survey Group.


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