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Blair 'torture policy' inquiry demanded

Tony Blair must not be allowed to become EU President while it is "unclear" what his role was over allegations of British complicity in the torture of terror suspects, Liberal Democrats demanded today.

Delegates at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth backed calls for the former Prime Minister not to be nominated for any future position of EU Council President.

It is thought Mr Blair may wish to accept an invitation to the powerful position if it is approved by the Lisbon Treaty, but he has not commented on it publicly.

During a debate on torture and extraordinary rendition, supporters cheered as foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey demanded: "No Government can in good conscience support Tony Blair as a potential President of the European Council while it remains unclear what his role was in the development of British policy on torture."

And he warned that any future inquiry into allegations of Government complicity must not become a "witch-hunt" of the intelligence services.

Mr Davey praised the professionalism of British agents while calling for an independent probe into what ministers knew about the abuse of British suspects overseas.

He said the increasing numbers of allegations of British involvement in torture and what he termed "state kidnapping" had to be "taken seriously and investigated".

He was speaking as delegates backed calls for a full and independent inquiry into the "involvement or knowledge" of the Government over torture and rendition.

But he said: "Let's be clear what such an investigation must not be - it cannot be a witchhunt of Britain's secret services. We believe they play an essential role in protecting our country.

"And I know from my own work in securing the release of a constituent from Guantanamo Bay how professional and principled secret service officers are."

The motion, which was backed overwhelmingly by a show of hands, calls for a "full and independent public inquiry into the facts relating to the involvement or knowledge of the British Government on matters relating to torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal transfer of detainees to foreign jurisdictions between September 11 2001 and January 20 2009."

It also demands Mr Blair should "not to be supported by any British or EU government for the post of President of the European Council as it would be wholly inappropriate for him to occupy such a position before an inquiry has established his role in the formulation of British policy on torture."