Sunday, January 29, 2006
PM knew President was only going through the diplomatic motions, claims new edition of book
By Marie Woolf, Political Editor
Published: 29 January 2006
Tony Blair knew that George Bush was only "going through the motions" of offering support for a second UN resolution in the run-up to the Iraq war, it was claimed last night.
According to reports in The Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister and the US President decided to go to war regardless of whether they obtained UN backing. The allegations will undermine claims that the final decision to go to war was not made until MPs voted in the Commons a day before military action. It will also bolster claims that the President and Mr Blair decided to go to war months before military action began.
An updated edition of a book by Philippe Sands QC, a leading human rights barrister and Professor of Law at London University, to be published in Britain this week, is expected to strengthen claims that President Bush decided to go to war with or without UN backing, and that he had Mr Blair's support.
The book is expected to produce fresh evidence that President Bush only went through the motions of giving a wholehearted endorsement to Mr Blair's attempts to gain full UN approval for military action.
At a meeting between Mr Blair and Mr Bush at the White House on 31 January 2003, Mr Blair urged the President to try to obtain a second UN resolution giving specific backing for the war. Mr Bush gave qualified support for going down the UN route. But, according to The Mail on Sunday, President Bush was only going through the motions - and, the paper adds: "Mr Blair not only knew it, but went along with it."
Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain's former ambassador to Washington, had claimed in his memoirs that Britain failed to use its influence to hold back the American march to war against Iraq. In his book, he describes that meeting between the President and Tony Blair.
"We are all milling around in the State dining room as Bush and Blair put the final touches to what they were going to say to the media," he wrote.
"Bush had a notepad on which he had written a form of words on the second resolution. He read it out ... There was silence. I waited for Blair to say he needed something as supportive as possible. He said nothing. I waited for somebody on the No 10 team to say something. Nothing was said.
"I cursed myself afterwards for not piping up. At the press conference, Bush gave only a perfunctory and luke-warm support for a second resolution.
"It was neither his nor Blair's finest performance."