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24 Jun

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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News

Morsi wins Egypt’s presidential election

Muslim Brotherhood candidate declared the official winner with 13.2 million votes.

Last Modified: 24 Jun 2012 14:51 GMT

Middle East

Sudan sees rise in anti-government protests

Following days of unrest sparked by rising food prices, protests demanding regime change have widened over the week.
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2012 05:06 GMT

Africa

Rallying against extradition in UK

The families of four men wanted by US law enforcement protest outside Downing Street to press for trial in own country.

MPs demand recall of Chilcot inquiry to question former PM over revelation in
Campbell diaries

By Jane Merrick and Matt Chorley

Sunday, 24 June 2012

MPs demanded an emergency recall of the Chilcot inquiry last night after new
revelations that Tony Blair blocked the Government’s most senior lawyer from
explaining to Cabinet the legality of the war in Iraq.

According to the newly published full version of Alastair Campbell’s diaries,
the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wanted to “put the reality” to cabinet
ministers that there was a case against, as well as for, military action in
March 2003. But, according to his former spin doctor, the then Prime Minister
feared that the legal opinion was too “nuanced” and would allow the war’s
ministerial critics Robin Cook and Clare Short to say that the case had not been
made.

The disclosure is significant because, while it has long been suspected that
Mr Blair and his inner circle put pressure on Lord Goldsmith to change his legal
advice, this is the first evidence that the PM actively blocked the Cabinet from
hearing the full details of the case for war.

MPs from all parties urged Sir John Chilcot, who has finished taking evidence
and is now preparing his report into the Iraq war, to reconvene a special
session to hear from Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and Lord Goldsmith. The former
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “According to the diaries,
Tony Blair was determined that the decision should not rest with the Cabinet and
overruled his Attorney General. Sofa government prevailed at the expense of
constitutional requirements. The diaries prove that once a decision to go to war
against Iraq had been taken, intelligence and legal advice was manipulated to
support that decision.”

Lord Goldsmith presented a longer legal opinion to Mr Blair on 7 March 2003
in which he said he believed there was a “reasonable case” in favour of military
action, but that “there was also a case to be made the other way”. According to
Mr Campbell’s diaries, Lord Goldsmith warned Mr Blair that he did not want the
Prime Minister to “present it too positively” in favour of military action
because there was a “case to be made the other way”. Mr Campbell wrote: “TB also
made it clear he did not particularly want Goldsmith to launch a detailed
discussion at Cabinet, though it would have to happen at some time, and
ministers would want to cross-examine. With the mood as it was, and with Robin
[Cook] and Clare [Short] operating as they were, he knew if there was any nuance
at all, they would be straight out saying the advice was that it was not legal,
the AG was casting doubt on the legal basis for war. Peter Goldsmith was clear
that though a lot depended on what happened, he was casting doubt in some
circumstances and if Cabinet had to approve the policy of going to war, he had
to be able to put the reality to them.”

But Mr Campbell added that this was blocked by Mr Blair and his gatekeeper,
Sally Morgan, during a meeting of Mr Blair and his closest aides on 11 March:
“Sally said it was for TB to speak to Cabinet, and act on the AG’s advice. He
would simply say the advice said there was a reasonable case.”

Following the 11 March meeting, Lord Goldsmith produced a new, one-page legal
opinion which put the “reasonable case” for war – which was discussed at Cabinet
and used in Parliament to justify military action.

In his own memoir, A Journey, Mr Blair did not reveal details of how he tried
to block Lord Goldsmith. He said only that the Attorney General had “set out the
arguments for and against and on balance came out in favour”. When he gave
evidence to the Chilcot inquiry in January 2010, Lord Goldsmith was asked by
inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne whether anyone asked him to “restrict what
you said to Cabinet to the fairly limited terms in which you presented this to
Cabinet”. Lord Goldsmith replied: “No.”

Sir Menzies added: “There seems to be a substantial difference between the
contents of the diaries and the evidence given to the Chilcot inquiry, and the
inquiry would be well advised to reconvene itself.”

Last night Clare Short said she was not surprised that Mr Blair had been
“deceitful” in presenting the case for war. Peter Kilfoyle, a minister in the
Blair government, also called for the Chilcot inquiry to be recalled. “There is
a straightforward contradiction between the two positions and it needs to be
corroborated.”

The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said: “New facts have come to light and
this makes me question whether we know enough about the then Prime Minister’s
attitude that justified the war.”

Mr Campbell said last night: “Peter Goldsmith’s legal opinion is in the
public domain and it was no secret he had concerns at various points. This is
entirely consistent with what he and Tony Blair said to the Chilcot inquiry.”

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