Blair denies Mail on Sunday report that claims the former PM ordered ministers to ‘burn’ Iraq warning
Claims that ministers were ordered to destroy a secret document on the legality of the Iraq war are nonsense, Tony Blair’s office has said, BBC reported.
The Mail on Sunday says a report by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in 2003 said the conflict could be challenged under international law.
It claims PM Mr Blair was horrified and those who had a copy were told to “burn it, destroy it.” Any idea of destroying such a report was absurd, Mr Blair’s office said.
The newspaper alleges the “burn it” order was issued after a 13-page legal opinion was presented by Lord Goldsmith to Mr Blair less than three weeks before the outbreak of war.
Blair has earlier apologised for “mistakes” in the planning of the Iraq War, admitting that “the intelligence we received was wrong.”
Blair, during an interview conceded that there were “elements of truth” in the view that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the “principle cause” of the rise of the Islamic State (IS). “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said.
“I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
“I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there,” he added. In the interview, Blair acknowledged the link between the Iraq war and the rise of the IS.
“Of course, you can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015,” he said.
In 2009, former premier Gordon Brown established an inquiry, led by counsellor John Chilcot, into the Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War, but the final conclusions of the inquiry have not been published yet.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described Blair’s apology as a “spin operation”.
“The Blair spin operation begins but the country still awaits the truth. The delay to Chilcot report is a scandal,” she tweeted.
The Mail quotes a senior No 10 figure at the time as saying: “There was pandemonium. The date when war was expected to start was already in the diary, and here was Goldsmith saying it could be challenged under international law. They said ‘burn it, destroy it’ and got to work on the AG.”
The paper reports that among those who were told to destroy their copy was the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who it says flatly ignored the order. It says Mr Hoon told it that he would not comment on the allegations while the Chilcot inquiry into the war was still under way.
“This is nonsense as far as Tony Blair knows,” his spokesman said of the Mail’s allegations. “No one ever said that in his presence and in any event it would be quite absurd to think that anyone could destroy any such document.
“Mr Blair and Lord Goldsmith dealt with all the circumstances surrounding the advice at the (Iraq) Inquiry at length and with all the documents. The fact is the advice given was that the action was legal and it was given for perfectly good reasons.”