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Blair Defends War in Iraq - 2004-02-04


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is defending his decision to go to war in Iraq, sweeping aside concerns about the validity of the intelligence that led to his decision.

The parliamentary debate focused on the findings of Judge Brian Hutton's probe into the apparent suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, who was the source for a BBC report, which said that the government had exaggerated the dangers of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

That probe found last week that Mr. Blair's government had done nothing wrong. But the British leader acknowledged that many people simply believe the war was not justified, and they will never be convinced.

"Some who are opposed to the war will not rest, until one inquiry succeeds another, until finally an inquiry concludes it was all a mistake, or even better, a conspiracy," said Mr. Blair. "I have given up trying to satisfy that audience."

Opposition party leaders said they accepted the findings of the Hutton inquiry that exonerated Mr. Blair, but the head of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, he still believes the war could have been avoided.

"It was the wrong war, prosecuted at the wrong time and for quite the wrong reasons," he said.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister said, regardless of whether any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were ever found, Saddam Hussein was a dangerous dictator, and toppling him was the right thing to do.

"I am not ashamed of the fact that we went to war. I think we did the right thing," he said. "I think the world is a safer place as a result of it. I think we are better able to tackle weapons of mass destruction worldwide as a result of it. And I think this country, its armed forces should be proud of what we achieved."

On Tuesday, Mr. Blair ordered an inquiry into the quality of the pre-war intelligence that led to his decision to go to war with Iraq.

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