Friday 28 April 2017

Blair was warned on illegality of Iraq war

Gavin Cordon and Sam Marsden in London

FORMER British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned two months before the invasion of Iraq that it would be illegal to go to war without United Nations' authority, the inquiry into the conflict heard yesterday.

Newly declassified papers showed Lord Goldsmith, then the attorney general, was initially "pessimistic" that there was sufficient legal basis for military action. However, after being urged to change his view by the then foreign secretary Jack Straw -- who warned against overly "dogmatic" legal advice -- he ruled it was lawful.

The inquiry heard how Mr Straw rejected the advice of his senior legal adviser at the Foreign Office, Michael Wood, that an invasion without a UN Security Council resolution autho-rising military action would be a "crime of aggression".

Authority

The inquiry also heard that No 10 had raised the prospect of going into Iraq without "international legal authority" for the use of force.

The extent of the concerns among government lawyers will intensify the pressure on both Lord Goldsmith, who gives evidence tomorrow, and Mr Blair, who appears on Friday.

Even while the negotiations were under way in October 2002 on Security Council resolution 1441 -- which required Iraq to give up its supposed weapons of mass destruction - Mr Wood said he was being asked about the consequences of invading without authority.

"This was a rather curious request and I am still not entirely sure what the purpose was," he said. "I think it was to send off to No 10 and it did go to No 10, who said 'Why has this been put in writing?'."

Following the passing of 1441 in November 2002, Lord Goldsmith expressed concern to Mr Straw that it was being seen in government as the legal justification for military action.

Irish Independent

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