Clwyd will report on Saddam's war crimes as Blair's Iraqi envoy

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When Ann Clwyd missed key Commons votes in 1995 because she was on the Iraqi border witnessing the plight of the Kurds, Tony Blair sacked her as a foreign affairs frontbencher.

Today the backbencher who played a central role in making the moral case for war against Saddam Hussein will fly to Iraq as Mr Blair's personal representative on a mission to report on the former dictator's war crimes. Ms Clwyd, who travels for talks in Kuwait before heading to Iraq for a two-week fact-finding trip, was the most prominent advocate of war on Labour's left, passionately arguing the case for toppling Saddam.

Yesterday she said that restoring security to Iraq was of "paramount" importance and backed calls for a force of up to 100,000 troops to maintain order and begin the country's reconstruction. She said: "I think things are getting better every day. But there are challenges, for instance more progress has got to be made in restoring water, power and health services in many areas, [and] maintaining law and order.Security is of paramount importance."

Mr Blair approached Ms Clwyd, 66, last Wednesday in a private meeting before his weekly talks with Labour's backbench committee. He asked her to give him reports on the human rights situation in Iraq as fresh evidence emerges of mass gravesoutside Baghdad and other Iraqi towns.

Ms Clwyd has campaigned against human rights abuses in Iraq for 25 years, and since 1996 has chaired the pressure group Indict, which documents evidence of torture and crimes by Saddam's regime to build the case for bringing the former dictator to the international war crimes tribunal.

Her consistent campaigning against the Iraqi regime won her respect from colleagues, even those on the left of the Labour Party who strongly opposed military action.

She said yesterday she planned to ensure evidence was preserved so that leaders of Saddam's regime could be brought to trial. But she said she would also bring Mr Blair news of the plight of ordinary Iraqis as they struggled to rebuild their country.

She said: "I supported the war for humanitarian reasons all along. I would still support it for those reasons, because they were so obvious."