Blair defends 'facts' in the Commons

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair insisted yesterday that Downing Street's "dodgy dossier" on the threat posed by Iraq was accurate despite its failure to attribute its sources.

Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Blair told MPs that he had not been aware the second dossier on weapons contained extracts from a PhD student's thesis written 12 years previously.

But he stressed that the contents of the document, which was published in February, could not be contested. "There is not a single fact in it which is disputed," the Prime Minister told Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader. Mr Blair said he stood by the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Mr Kennedy asked Mr Blair to confirm that he had not been aware that sections of the dossier had been lifted from the internet when he authorised its publication.

Changes to the dossier included the substitution of a claim that Saddam backed "opposition groups" in other countries with the more alarming allegation that he supported "terrorist organisations". Mr Blair replied: "I can confirm that but it is important in all the coverage of this to realise that the contents of that dossier, as indeed the first dossier, which was the one I presented to this House, are accurate."

Gregory Barker, Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle, referred to the remarks by Jack Straw that the second dossier was "a complete Horlicks". Mr Barker said: "Given that yesterday, the Foreign Secretary actually described the dodgy dossier as a complete Horlicks, is it time to say 'night night' to Alastair Campbell?"

Mr Blair replied: "The actual part of that dossier was entirely accurate. The mistake in not attributing it was accepted at the time and I would simply point out that ... there is not a single fact in it that is actually disputed."

When further challenged by Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party's leader at Westminster, Mr Blair said: "You may disagree with the action we took, that is your right. But I defend that action because it was the right thing for this country to do," he said.

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