Blair 'exercised spin' to justify Iraq war, says chief weapons inspector
UK Daily Mail | March 12, 2007
Former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix accused Tony Blair today of "exercising spin" in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.
Mr Blix told Sky News that the Prime Minister and those involved in compiling the Government's dossier on Iraq which was used to justify the war had "exercised spin", replacing question marks with exclamation marks.
Asked if Mr Blair had acted in bad faith, he said: "I do think they exercised spin. They put exclamation marks instead of question marks.
"There were question marks but they changed them to exclamation marks. And I think they got the political punishment for that.
"They lost a lot of confidence. Both Bush and Blair lost a lot of confidence."
He said the war was "clearly illegal", adding that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had tried to argue the coalition forces were upholding the authority of the UN Security Council despite the majority of the council being against the war.
He said he was not optimistic about the short-term future of Iraq, adding: "There are lots of intelligent people and well-educated people.
"I met some of them who were my opposite numbers. You must empower them. They must feel that they have the future in their hands.
"Whether they will succeed, I don't know. But I don't see that the US can succeed."
He added: "I think everything in Iraq after the invasion has been a tragedy. The only positive thing I think is the disappearance of Saddam Hussein."
Asked if the war could have been avoided through diplomacy, he said: "I think if they'd allowed us to carry on the inspections a couple of months more (which was the European position) then we would have been able to go to all the sites suspected of by intelligence - British, American or other.
"And since there weren't any weapons we'd have come with that answer: there are no weapons at all the sites that you have given us.
"And I think then the intelligence would themselves have said, 'Our sources are evidently poor'.
"They had other sources - they had the defectors, satellite. But they had defectors above all. And the defectors didn't want inspection. They wanted invasion.
"And the US after all were witch-hunters. They wanted to see anything as evidence that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction.
"We were simply looking for the truth. We didn't assume that they had them. We didn't assume that they did not have them."
On the possibility of Iran's alleged attempts to acquire nuclear weapons leading to war, he said he hoped the majority of the UN Security Council would be against military action.
He added: "Then maybe the Americans would say, as usual, the council is impotent and someone who's more responsible in this world will have to do something about it and go in.
"I wouldn't be surprised if people in Washington who reason that way. But the atmosphere in Washington has changed a good deal. The American people are tired of military adventures."
Asked what should happen if it was a straight choice between Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and war breaking out, he said: "We are not there yet. I am not going to choose today. I am saying drop your demand for preconditions.
"That's what prevents you from sitting down with the Iranians. The Iranians say, 'We are ready to sit down, we are ready to discuss the question of enrichment.'
"So why not take them up on that? I think it's a silly diplomatic dance about a tactical advantage and they should find a diplomatic way out of that."
On Friday, US and Iranian officials met in Baghdad to discuss the future of Iraq, marking a step towards the re-establishing of diplomatic ties cut after militants occupied the US Embassy in Iran's capital Tehran in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Sky's interview with Mr Blix is being screened as part of Inside Iraq, a week of programmes to mark the fourth anniversary of the country's US-led invasion.