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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 February, 2004, 12:05 GMT
Iraq advice 'must be made public'
John Major
John Major said the advice should be published to end speculation
Former Tory Prime Minister John Major has called for the full advice given by the attorney general about the legality of the war in Iraq to be published.

The government has so far rejected demands for it to be made public.

Mr Major said a summary had already been published and there was no excuse for not giving full details.

He told the BBC further speculation would only damage the prime minister's position and that the "poison needs to be let out of the system".

Downing Street has refused to comment on newspaper reports that the attorney general changed his advice shortly before the allied campaign began.

'Poisonous row'

According to the Observer and the Independent on Sunday military officials were concerned that their troops could be prosecuted for fighting illegally.
I think this poison needs to be let out of the system and I think publishing Lord Goldsmith's advice would let it out of the system
John Major

They allegedly demanded an unequivocal statement that the invasion was lawful from the attorney general.

The former Tory leader told BBC's Breakfast with Frost it was in Tony Blair's interest to reveal Lord Goldsmith's full advice.

He said: "I cannot see any credible or logical reason why - given the circumstances as they now are, given the fact that they have already published a summary of the opinion, given the fact that there is no doubt Lord Goldsmith produced such an opinion - I cannot see at all why that should not now be published.

"This is poisoning the whole political atmosphere."

UK troops during fighting around Basra
A Downing Street spokesman said Lord Goldsmith stood by his advice

Speaking on the same programme, former foreign secretary Robin Cook - who resigned over the Iraq war - said Tony Blair would not have gone to war if he had not believed it was justified in international law.

But he said the attorney general's opinion was based on the necessity of disarming Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.

"I do think that does raise two questions; first of all what was the evidence given to the attorney general that convinced him that those weapons - that don't exist - were actually there; and secondly, would the attorney general now give the same opinion given that he now knows those weapons don't exist?

"I do think there is an obligation now on the government and the attorney general to satisfy the very real public debate on this point."

There was intense pressure on everybody in government in those closing stages before the war
Robin Cook,
Former foreign secretary
Mr Cook said convention prevented the full publication of Lord Goldsmith's advice but suggested the attorney general give a lecture explaining the justification for war.

He said he thought it unlikely that Lord Goldsmith had been pressured into changing his legal advice in the run-up to war.

"I have the highest respect for Lord Goldsmith... he's not the kind of person you could "lean on"."

Speaking on GMTV, Commons leader Peter Hain also rejected claims that Lord Goldsmith had been subjected to pressure.

"We have a fog of fabrication and allegation not backed up by any evidence at all," he said.

"I think it is a deliberate effort to refocus from the most successful government and prime minister in living memory and to try to sidetrack everyone into what I think has become a very old story."

A Downing Street spokesman said there were no plans to release the attorney general's advice "because of the long-standing convention that advice from government law officers is not disclosed".




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Guto Harri
"The Prime Minister is frustrated that arguments about war have become so focused on the procedures of government"



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