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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Lib Dems attack Blair's Iraq wars
By Hannah Goff
News Online Politics Staff in Bournemouth

Sir Menzies Campbell
Campbell: Coalition stained
The prime minister should apologise for the first Iraq war before beginning a second, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell has said.

His words follow Tony Blair's claim a second war was now being fought with Iraq insurgents and terrorists after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

He was reflecting party leader Charles Kennedy's call for Tony Blair to say sorry for his mistakes over Iraq.

Britain's influence had been diminished by the war, Sir Menzies told delegates.

At the very least prime minister just say sorry
Charles Kennedy

"The coalition has been stained by the debauchery of Abu Ghraib and its British citizens languish in Guantanamo, shorn of legal rights and denied justice," he said in his speech to delegates on Monday.

Sir Menzies also criticised the Tories - calling them the "wobblers of Westminster" for "their conversion from cheer-leaders to critics" of the war.

Addressing a rally in Bournemouth on Sunday, Mr Kennedy called the war a "tragic folly" and the "biggest foreign policy error" since the Suez crisis.

It had left the UK's foreign policy reputation "in tatters" and eroded trust in politics in general, he said.

'Mistaken war'

"At the very least prime minister just say sorry," Mr Kennedy told delegates.

Mr Kennedy said: "Our reputation as a steady and stable force in international affairs is in tatters.

"We are no longer sure we can trust our intelligence services.

"We recoil from the loss of trust in government lawyers, former judges, senior civil servants - who have been sullied by entanglement with this mistaken war."

MONDAY'S AGENDA
0900: Formal opening
0920: Debate on reducing the risk of terrorism
1100: Speech by Baroness Williams of Crosby, party Leader in the Lords.
1200: Speech by party Deputy Leader Sir Menzies Campbell
1415: Speech by Treasury spokesman Dr Vincent Cable
1530: Question and answer session with party Leader Charles Kennedy

He said it was "too late to turn back the clock," on much of the damage, but the prime minister could at least apologise for his mistakes.

"Prime minister, why not just, even now, admit you got it wrong? Apologise? Say sorry for the damage you have done, the anguish you have caused, the wrongs that you can never now right?," Mr Kennedy said.

Earlier, at a press conference, Mr Kennedy said Mr Blair had "one opportunity left, when Parliament reassembles, to make a full and frank disclosure" of the run up to war.

In particular, the prime minister still had not answered the question of whether he had told US President George W Bush that Britain would be with the US in an Iraq war "come what may" before Parliament voted on the issue, Mr Kennedy said.

Suez

In her last speech to the conference as the party's leader in the Lords on Monday morning, Baroness Shirley Williams said the Iraq war was the "greatest blunder since Suez."

"The government cannot move on until it admits this.

"The government neglected the war on terror for a war on Iraq - a war of its choosing," she said.

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The consequences of that war was a lawless Iraq that is slipping into chaos, she said adding the "terrorist menace" had grown not declined.

Mr Kennedy denied that by focusing on Iraq, he was in danger of turning his party into a "one-trick pony".

Iraq symbolised a wider breakdown in trust in Labour and politics in general, Mr Kennedy said.

Conservative defence spokesman Nicholas Soames insisted it was right to topple Saddam and to "liberate" Iraq but he was critical of post-war planning which he branded "chaotic".




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