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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
Blair to face Howard over Butler
Tony Blair
Blair said he accepts the report's findings
Tony Blair will go head-to-head with Tory leader Michael Howard in a Commons debate on Iraq and the Butler inquiry next week, Downing Street has said.

The announcement follows renewed pressure on the prime minister over the report which found "serious flaws" in the pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Lord Butler criticised the way the intelligence was presented, saying it seemed "firmer and fuller" than it was.

The Tories and the Liberal Democrats called for a full debate on the issue.

More MI6 staff

Iain Duncan Smith has argued John Scarlett should not take the post of MI6 chief, saying his credibility was damaged.

The ex-Tory leader said Mr Scarlett - currently Joint Intelligence Committee chairman - had been undermined by flaws in the government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The intelligence services meanwhile are now looking at how to improve procedures after Lord Butler's criticisms.

Downing Street says it will not rush into any changes and Mr Blair's official spokesman said the Cabinet did not discuss the inquiry on Thursday morning.

The lawfulness of the conflict is not undermined by the failure to find WMD
Lord Goldsmith

The spokesman said: "We have to reflect on what we will do, so we are going to make a considered response, rather than do it in any knee-jerk way."

He said the prime minister "stands absolutely" by the judgement to go to war.

They put exclamation marks where there had been question marks and I think that is hyping
Dr Hans Blix
UN's former chief weapons inspector

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said the report did not blame individuals but careful reading of the report was "uncomfortable for anybody".

The inquiry criticised the quality of intelligence given to ministers to support the Iraq war.

The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) has already been allocated the money to recruit an extra 1,000 agents after ministers doubled security spending.

The report cleared ministers of distorting intelligence on Iraq's weapons to support the case for war but criticised the way the intelligence was analysed and presented.

And it raised concerns about Mr Blair's style of government and his emphasis on un-minuted and informal meetings.

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Mr Prescott acknowledged that some intelligence was "faulty" but said they took the right decision on the information available at the time.

Mr Blair has said he accepts responsibility for the failings highlighted in the report but said any mistakes were made in good faith.

But Dr Hans Blix, the UN's former chief weapons inspector, said the government had "hyped" Iraq's weapons capability in its September 2002 dossier with unacceptable "spin".

'Spin'

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said the inquiry raised very serious questions about Mr Blair's credibility.

And Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said Parliament's security watchdog should have been told a key piece of intelligence had been withdrawn when it investigated the issue last September.

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Today the report showed there was never intelligence reliable enough to justify a pre-emptive strike.

The government's chief legal adviser, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith QC, has insisted the Iraq war was lawful, despite the flawed intelligence.

A statement from his office said the legality was based on Saddam Hussein breaking United Nations resolutions.

"So the lawfulness of the conflict is not undermined by the failure to find WMD or by any reassessment of the intelligence," it said.

Security changes

In the US, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate John Edwards said Mr Blair's reaction to the Butler report showed a leadership lacking in President George Bush.

A US Senate inquiry severely criticised American intelligence agencies for the quality of their pre-war information.

Lord Butler was asked by No 10 to look at the accuracy of Britain's pre-war intelligence after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.




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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Downing Street say lessons will be learned so mistakes won't be repeated"



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