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Last Updated: Monday, 25 June 2007, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Harman denies Iraq apology call
Harriet Harman is congratulated by the other candidates
Ms Harman beat five other contenders to the post
Labour's new deputy leader Harriet Harman has denied saying the government should apologise over the Iraq war.

She told BBC Radio's Today: "I've never said the government should apologise."

During the closely-fought campaign she said "I agree" when rival Jon Cruddas told a Newsnight hustings event that the Labour Party should "say sorry".

Ms Harman, elected after being the next choice of more Cruddas supporters than Alan Johnson, said people voted for her because of family policies, not Iraq.

Pressed during the Today programme interview she said: "What I've said is I actually voted for the war on the basis that there were weapons of mass destruction and I was wrong on that."

"How many times can I say it? I haven't asked anybody else to do anything - I've just explained what my position is.

I've said that if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it. I don't think that's what the party members elected me for
Harriet Harman
Labour deputy leader

"What I said was that we had to recognise the anger and bitterness that has been caused by Iraq, and we do, whilst at the same time strongly supporting our troops."

She added: "I've said that if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have voted for it. I don't think that's what the party members elected me for.

"They elected me because they've known me for 20 years helping Labour win elections and also because I put on the political agenda things that otherwise might get overlooked, which are not things to do with Iraq but are things to do with family."

Newsnight's Paxman

In the BBC Newsnight debate during the deputy leadership campaign the candidates were asked by Jeremy Paxman about their views on Iraq, a subject which the party's new leader Gordon Brown has acknowledged remains a "divisive" issue within the party.

All six deputy candidates voted for the war but Ms Harman and backbencher Mr Cruddas both said they would not have voted for the war if they had known there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Some are saying I am too posh, others are saying I am too left wing... they haven't really got it sorted out
Harriet Harman

Asked if they thought the party should "say sorry", Mr Cruddas said it should, as part of "a general reconciliation with the British people", and Ms Harman added: "I agree with that."

Later on Monday she was pressed on the issue again when she appeared on BBC Two's The Daily Politics.

She said she had not been referring to the need for an apology, but agreeing with the need for reconciliation with the public.

"I have not said I will press for a public apology from the government or the Labour Party," she said.

Deputy PM

Ms Harman beat five other candidates to the post of deputy leader - pipping the favourite, Education Secretary Alan Johnson - in the fifth round of votes.

It is thought unlikely she will become deputy prime minister - her predecessor John Prescott held both roles - as indications are there will not be a deputy PM under Gordon Brown.

Asked if she was disappointed, she told Today she had been elected to a party job and intended to get on with it, and Cabinet posts were a matter for Mr Brown.

She also dismissed newspaper critics telling the BBC: "Some are saying I am too right-wing, others are saying I am too left-wing... they haven't really got it sorted out. I just am what I am."

But Conservative Party chairman Francis Maude accused Ms Harman of "making gaffes" on her first day by denying calling for an apology for Iraq.

And Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable said: "Harriet Harman faces a serious problem of credibility."

He said that Ms Harman's comments during the deputy leadership campaign were "clearly in line with the vast majority of Labour members and the general public.

"What is now required is for Gordon Brown to come into line with her opinion, rather than the other way around," he said.

Harriet Harman on her plans as deputy leader

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