John Major leads calls for inquiry into conflict

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

Published: 16 December 2006

Sir John Major led calls for an independent inquiry into Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq after the revelations by a former British senior diplomat that contradict the Prime Minister's case for the conflict.

The former Conservative prime minister said the inquiry was needed into the "new information" reported yesterday in The Independent from the secret report to the Butler inquiry by Carne Ross, a key negotiator for Britain at the UN.

"The more we learn about the beginning of the war, the more uncertain its rationale seems to be," Sir John said. He said there was "no doubt" that the new Democrat-dominated US Congress would hold an inquiry into the war.

"I do think it is important in due course we do precisely the same," he added. "I would like an independent inquiry that would examine all the information dispassionately."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman rejected the calls, saying there had already been four inquiries. But Labour MPs joined the demands last night, urging Gordon Brown to call an inquiry when he takes over.

Alan Simpson, a leading member of the left-wing Campaign Group, said: "This is the most serious revelation about duplicity behind the war. This has to be a matter for an independent, and perhaps judicial, inquiry because this is not just the stuff of fibs; it is the basis for a referral to the international war crimes tribunal. If Blair won't hold one, I hope Gordon Brown will."

Mr Simpson said the Prime Minister had hidden behind the claim that it was a "judgement call" about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). "We now know from Carne Ross that the most senior diplomats were saying exactly what the anti-war movement was saying, that Iraq had no WMD."

The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said Mr Blair's justification for war had been "systematically destroyed". He said Mr Ross's evidence was "entirely consistent" with leaked documents.

"If this is true, the British people were knowingly deceived," Sir Menzies said. "The Prime Minister should be ashamed of himself."

Mr Ross said there had been "no intelligence evidence" of significant amounts of WMD being held by Saddam Hussein, or of any intention by Iraq to attack the UK or the US.

Mr Ross told the Foreign Affairs Committee, which published his report, that he had been advised he may be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

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