The Conservatives demanded yesterday that the Government publish advice from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, about the legality of British and American attempts to reshape Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, said ministers needed to clarify their legal guidance after Clare Short – who resigned as Secretary of State of International Development on Monday – said the Government was acting outside international law.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "She has accused the Government of acting illegally in the post-Iraq settlement by not obeying the Attorney General's instructions – legal instructions. We have said that he must publish that because if it is true, it is a very, very strong charge."
In her recent Commons statements on Iraq, Ms Short reassured MPs that the UN would take the lead in running the humanitarian aid effort in Iraq.
On 10 April, she said advice from Lord Goldsmith had made it clear that the Allies' role in postwar Iraq was strictly limited under international law.
She told MPs then that he had advised that the armed forces do not have "the authority to reorganise institutions or establish a new government. That requires a UN mandate. The UK is clear about that."
Downing Street said the Attorney General's advice would remain confidential. In a statement, Lord Goldsmith said: "In relation to the current situation in Iraq, I am satisfied that the Government is acting in accordance with international law."
British officials argue that the draft UN Security Council resolution circulated last week provides legal cover for the formation of an interim authority in Iraq.
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