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Blair Faces Tough Queries on Iraq - 2003-07-09

Questions surrounding Britain's entry into the war in Iraq continue to plague the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr. Blair was asked if he would now like to apologize to parliament for not having disclosed that at the time of the release of a key report on Iraq's weapons, the middle section of that report was gleaned from a graduate student's thesis found on the Internet.

"Mr. Speaker, the foreign secretary has already apologized on behalf of the whole government for the mistake that was made,"

But the prime minister was not in any mood to give ground to his critics.

"One part of the briefing paper, one part of it should have been sourced to a written record of a review that was published some time before," he said. "That part of it that was expressed to be based on intelligence was indeed based on intelligence. So, I am afraid that I do not accept that parliament was misled in any way at all."

The subject of weapons of mass destruction also came up. Though none have been found so far in Iraq, Mr. Blair made clear he firmly believes Saddam had them.

"I have no doubt at all that the intelligence that we received was accurate," he insisted. "I think the view from some people that this whole issue of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction is some invention of the CIA or British intelligence is absurd. The fact of the matter is we know that when the inspectors left at the end of 1998, there was a huge amount of weaponry unaccounted for."

Although the prime minister has been expressing this same general view over the past few weeks, the mood in the country is growing more critical. Polls show more and more Britons are saying military action against Iraq was wrong.