Senior diplomat hits out at Blair for remarks on Iran

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Indy Politics

A senior diplomat yesterday reacted angrily to Tony Blair's criticism of Iran during his evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war – and claimed his complaints about Tehran's interference in the post-war chaos was "a piece of spin".

Mr Blair claimed at the inquiry last week that Iran had fomented the insurgency that followed the coalition's invasion of Iraq in 2003. Mr Blair also claimed the Iranians' interference had almost caused the failure of the mission to establish democracy in Iraq.

In addition, he warned that the international community must be prepared to take a "very hard, tough line" with Iran over its banned nuclear programme.

But the attempt to switch the focus of the debate to Iran was attacked by Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Tehran. He said: "To say that Iran was the principal reason [for the failure] seemed to me to be part of a broader argument which he was trying to make, namely that it makes what he did in Iraq look better if he extends it to the future and says the policies then might have to be applied. But Iran is a completely different situation."

Mr Blair told the inquiry that, if Saddam had not been removed, "today we would have a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran" – both in terms of nuclear capability and "in respect of support of terrorist groups".

But Sir Richard, who now works at the Chatham House think-tank, said he feared Mr Blair had put action against Iran on the agenda in preparation for the general election campaign.