Kennedy demands Commons explanation

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair yesterday faced demands for an explanation after weapons inspectors concluded that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction when Britain went to war.

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, called on Mr Blair to come to the dispatch box when MPs return on Monday after an autumn break.

He demanded that Mr Blair explain disparities between the findings of the Iraq Survey Group and the Prime Minister's insistence that Britain go to war to rid Iraq of biological and chemical weapons.

MPs from all parties are seeking an explanation from Mr Blair as to why he "misled" them into voting in favour of a war against Saddam Hussein on the basis that Iraq posed a chemical and biological threat.

In the past, Mr Blair has asked Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to make statements to the House of Commons on Iraq. But yesterday, Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, insisted that there should be no passing the buck over the findings of the Iraq Survey Group.

"These issues go right to the very heart of the credibility of this government. Only the Prime Minister is qualified to deal with them. This is an occasion where the Foreign Secretary will not do," he said.

Mr Blair is likely to face tough questions both from his own backbenchers, some of whom have renewed calls for him to resign, and from opposition MPs, who believe the Iraq Survey Group's report destroys the legality of the case for war.

Mr Kennedy said he also wanted answers on leaked documents showing that Mr Blair backed "regime change" in Iraq a year before the war.

"It is now clear that we did not go to war as a last resort," he said. "The Prime Minister must make a full statement to explain why this country went to war on a false premise."