Poker-faced Blair keeps cards close to chest

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair decided to stonewall in the face of repeated questioning yesterday over fresh evidence to emerge at the Hutton inquiry suggesting that the Government "over-egged" its dossier on Iraqi weapons.

At his monthly news conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister said people should "let the judge [Lord Hutton] do the judging".

He said he could answer the criticisms made by two senior intelligence officials on Wednesday, but would not comment while the inquiry was under way. "I know what the headlines are today, but the important thing about this inquiry is that the judge is hearing the totality of the evidence," Mr Blair said. "He's not looking at the headlines, he's looking at the evidence." He said the Government would make its judgments after Lord Hutton had made his.

Mr Blair declined to clear up the alleged discrepancy between his statement after Dr David Kelly's death that he did not authorise the leaking of his name with his admission to the inquiry that he took part in meetings in Downing Street which discussed the "naming strategy" under which the government scientist was unmasked. Mr Blair said: "Let the Hutton inquiry make judgments about this. I could go on and give a long answer ... I'm sorry, no." He reiterated his pledge to the inquiry to take "full responsibility" for the Government's handling of Dr Kelly. Asked if he would consider resigning if Lord Hutton criticised the Government's decisions, Mr Blair said: "I think it is important that we allow the judge to make whatever criticisms ... he wants to make."

He added: "What I said last week is what I think you would expect me to say and ... I stand by it."