Ancram tries to distance Tories from Iraq war

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The war in Iraq was seen as a "Western adventure" against the Islamic world rather than a multilateral intervention, a senior Tory said yesterday.

Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, distanced the Tories from the military action they supported at the time when he told a fringe meeting in Blackpool the real lesson of the conflict was the importance of a multilateral approach to threats to international peace.

"It was and is important that such actions are not 'Tony Blair's war with Saddam' or Britain's war with Iraq," he said. "It has to be the 'international community' in one form or another that undertakes the responsibility for what are essentially world policing actions.

"The coalition in Iraq was wide enough, but only just, to satisfy this requirement in theory. In practice, it was not wide enough to prevent a perception in much of the Islamic world that this was a 'Western' adventure against one of their own number."

Mr Ancram, the Tory deputy leader, said that problem had made the process of reconstruction in Iraq more difficult. There was still "innate suspicion" in the country about the coalition's motives, causing non-cooperation and hostility.

"Overwhelming unilateral military force wins military campaigns," he said. "It rarely wins hearts and minds after the fighting is done."

In a Tory conference debate on foreign affairs today, Mr Ancram will call for an independent judicial inquiry into Mr Blair's use of intelligence to make a case for war. He will argue that Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of the Government scientist Dr David Kelly does not go wide enough.

Despite the Tories' attempt to put light between themselves and Mr Blair on the issue of the war, some senior figures believe Iain Duncan Smith's strong support for military action is one reason why he has failed to capitalise on the public's disenchantment with the Prime Minister.

Ian Taylor, a former minister, told another fringe meeting last night that the Tories had supported Mr Blair too uncritically. "I privately warned Iain Duncan Smith not to place himself even closer to President [George] Bush than Tony Blair. By ignoring the advice, the Opposition was neutered during a critical period for British foreign policy."

Mr Taylor warned: "The Blair Government has made the same mistake as some in my own party, of believing that by cuddling up to America, we will always protect the interests of Britain."

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