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Iraq pact 'decided before war'


By BBC

Tony Blair and George W Bush had already decided to invade Iraq in January 2003, a new book by a human rights lawyer has claimed.

The book - an updated edition of Lawless World by Philippe Sands - says the two leaders discussed going to war regardless of any United Nations view.

The book quotes a note the author said was made after a meeting of the two.

Downing Street said on Thursday it did not comment on discussions that "may or may not have happened" between leaders.

'Disarm Saddam'

The first edition of the book by Professor Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College London ,caused political controversy on its publication in February 2005.

In the new version of the book, due out on Friday, Professor Sands publishes an account of the meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair at the White House on 31 January 2003.

The two-hour meeting was also attended by six advisers. In the book Professor Sands quotes from a note he says was prepared by one of the participants.

According to the note, President Bush said that the military campaign was pencilled in for March. Mr Blair is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".

The book claims Mr Blair only wanted a second UN Security Council resolution because it would make it easier politically to deal with Saddam.

'Will not re-litigate'

It also claims the note reveals the two leaders discussed a number of options.

A Downing Street spokeswoman told the BBC on Thursday that the events leading up to the war had been thoroughly investigated.

A spokeswoman said the prime minister only committed UK forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.

The decision to resort to military action into Iraq fulfilled the obligation imposed by successive UN Security Council resolutions after other routes to disarm Iraq had failed.

The spokeswoman said Number Ten did not comment on conversations between the prime minister and other leaders.

In a response from the US, Frederick Jones, chief spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House will not comment on what was said or not said in alleged private conversations between President Bush and foreign leaders.

Mr Jones said the White House "was not going to re-litigate how the nation went to war".

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4675724.stm

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