Blair angered by reports of Chilcot criticism

 

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair expressed irritation last night at suggestions that the Iraq inquiry is preparing to deliver a damning verdict on his handling of the war.

He is facing criticism for not admitting to an agreement with George Bush that Britain would join the invasion and claiming that intelligence showed "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He is also expected to come under fire for not involving the entire Cabinet in key decisions and for failing to prepare for the aftermath of the conflict, according to The Mail on Sunday.

Alastair Campbell, his former communications chief, is also set to be criticised for "spinning" intelligence material ahead of the war.He declined to comment last night.

The report by the five-member panel headed by Sir John Chilcot is currently being written and witnesses will be contacted ahead of publication to give them the chance to respond to critical conclusions.

Although it is not due to be published until the autumn, it is expected to reach tougher conclusions about the conduct of the war than earlier inquiries by Lord Hutton and Lord Butler.

A spokesman for Mr Blair, who appeared twice before the inquiry, said: "This is a deliberate attempt by The Mail on Sunday to prejudge a report that hasn't even been written yet. We are not going comment until it has been published."

The interrogation of Mr Blair focused on the certainty with which he had asserted that Saddam had obtained deadly weapons, as well as the claim that Iraq could launch them within 45 minutes of an order.

The inquiry pursued details of a meeting between Mr Blair and Mr Bush at the then President's ranch in 2002, a year before the war, in which they allegedly agreed to the invasion. Mr Blair denies the claim.

There will also reportedly be criticism of Mr Blair's style of "sofa government", keeping the majority of his Cabinet in the dark, and "obvious failings" in post-war planning.

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