Blair scorns Iraq claim by Meacher

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Tony Blair yesterday "totally rejected" remarks by his former minister Michael Meacher blaming the Iraq war on the United States' desire for world domination.

Mr Meacher, who was environment minister until three months ago, suggested the Americans might have failed to prevent the 11 September attacks because they gave a pretext for military action.

He has already outlined his opposition to war, calling the case for action an "uncertain fantasy". Criticising the British Government for colluding with the US, he said the Bush government always intended to take control of the Gulf region in order to secure further oil supplies.

A Downing Street spokes-man responded: "He is obviously not a government minister any more. His views are his own and ones which clearly would not be shared by the Prime Minister."

Mr Meacher wrote in yesterday's Guardian: "It seems that the so-called war on terrorism is being used largely as a bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives.

"The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 11 September.

"The global war on terrorism has all the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for ... the US goal of world hegemony."

Mr Meacher also said the US had passed up opportunities to catch Osama bin Laden.

The US embassy insisted Mr Meacher's views, particularly the suggestion that the US government knowingly stood by while terrorists killed its citizens, "would be ... monstrously offensive, if they came from someone serious or credible".

Mr Meacher yesterday stood by his remarks, saying he was no conspiracy theorist but simply "in favour of giving people the facts".