Diplomats 'kept in dark' about legal chief's doubts

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Indy Politics

Britain's most senior diplomats were never told that the Government's legal chief disagreed with Tony Blair's public statements about the legality of the Iraq war, it emerged last night.

Sir Christopher Meyer, who was Britain's ambassador in Washington at the time of the Iraq invasion, said he was surprised by the admission of Lord Goldsmith, the former attorney general, that he was "uncomfortable" about comments made by Mr Blair.

A senior MP also called for Lord Goldsmith to be recalled as a witness to explain his concerns more fully. The former prime minister had stated both in the Commons and in a Newsnight interview that he would have legal clearance to topple Saddam Hussein if French diplomats at the UN were acting unreasonably by vetoing military action.

"I had no idea that the attorney general was giving them advice that an unreasonable veto [by the French] could not be justified as a reason for going for war," Sir Christopher told The Independent. "I had no idea that argument was even in the air."

He said that during the run-up to the March 2003 invasion, he had been told to blame the French. Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, called for Lord Goldsmith to be brought back as a witness to explain whether he stood by his statement and why he did not resign over the issue.

"He should be asked why he felt uncomfortable and whether he expressed his discomfort to the Prime Minister," he said.