Butler renews attack on weapons dossier

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Lord Butler renewed his attack on the Government's handling of the run-up to war in Iraq yesterday, as he warned that claims about Saddam's biological and chemical weapons had "come home to roost".

Lord Butler renewed his attack on the Government's handling of the run-up to war in Iraq yesterday, as he warned that claims about Saddam's biological and chemical weapons had "come home to roost".

The former Cabinet Secretary, speaking for the first time since he published his report into the use of intelligence in the months before the invasion, also repeated his criticism of Tony Blair's informal style of decision making.

But he defended his decision to back the appointment of the joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett as head of MI6, saying it would have been unfair and against the national interest to allow him to become a victim of the furore.

His comments came as Mr Blair made his clearest admission yet that mistakes were made in planning for Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Lord Butler said: "Although none of us on the committee doubted or doubt today the Prime Minister's and the Government's good faith in concluding that Saddam Hussein had conceal stocks of biological and chemical weapons ... the Government's dossier in September 2002 does not make clear that the intelligence underlying those conclusions was very thin even though the JIC assessments had been quite clear about that.

"How grave a fault that was in the context of the lead up to war is a matter on which people will and should reach their own conclusions. But we regard it as a serious weakness, a weakness which subsequently came home to roost as the conclusion about deployable stocks of chemical and biological weapons have turned out to be wrong."

He said the assertion that Saddam was linked to the spread of international terrorism was "one not really supported by the intelligence"..

Mr Blair admitted: "I have no doubt when you look back over this you can always see things that could have been done better or mistakes that were made.

"But what we have now got is a situation where, once a lot of these groups could see that what we intended to do was to stabilise the country and hand the power to the Iraqis ... they set about trying to stop us."

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