I warned against WMD dossier, says ex-mandarin

Click to follow

A former Foreign Office official has described how he warned against publishing the Labour government's controversial dossier on Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

John Williams, who was director of communications at the Foreign Office at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, said he had "argued strongly" against publication with then prime minister Tony Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell.

In a written statement to the Iraq Inquiry, released today, Mr Williams said he thought he had won the argument, only for Mr Blair to announce in September 2002 that the government was going ahead with the dossier.

"The burden of my argument was not about the quality of specific intelligence, which I never dreamed of judging, but my strong sense that we should not take on ourselves the burden of proof, when all the UN resolutions put the burden on Saddam Hussein to show he had destroyed his weapons," he said.

"We couldn't prove it if the inspectors couldn't."

Mr Williams, a former journalist, described how he was initially chosen by then foreign secretary Jack Straw and head of the Diplomatic Service Sir Michael Jay as the "golden pen" who would write the dossier.

He produced an initial draft, but said he was "relieved" when the responsibility for the document was passed to the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir John Scarlett.

Mr Williams said it was only after he left the Foreign Office that he learned that some mid-level officials had been doubtful the Saddam's supposed WMD still existed.

"My recollection is that there was never a voice raised in the foreign secretary's presence, or in the flow of paper to him that was copied to me, that ever raised doubts that Iraq still had WMD," he said.