Answering parliamentary questions Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair strongly denied that he misrepresented pre-war intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein's mass destruction weapons arsenal. The British leader is under growing pressure to apologize for using evidence now proven to be false in building his case for war.
At issue is whether the British leader misrepresented pre-war intelligence in order to convince parliament and the country that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and war was the correct course of action to take against him.
In the House of Commons Wednesday, Conservative leader Michael Howard asked Tony Blair if he would now like to apologize for what Mr. Howard described as misleading the country based on so-called evidence that has now been shown to be wrong.
"I will not apologize for removing Saddam Hussein," Mr. Blair said. "I will not apologize for the conflict. I believe it was right then, is right now, (it) is essential for the wider security of that region and the world and I wish (Mr. Howard) would stop playing politics with this issue which is precisely what he is doing."
Mr. Blair had long contended that he believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be deployed on 45-minutes notice. The Labor government now accepts this was false, but Mr. Blair insists the Iraqi leader intended to acquire weapons of mass destruction and that justified the invasion of his country.
"What we know is that he indeed had the intent, had the capability, retained the scientists, retained the desire but may not have had stockpiles of actually deployable weapons," Mr. Blair said. "That we have accepted and I have already apologized for any information that subsequently turns out to be wrong."
Last month, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he believed that the war in Iraq was, in fact, illegal. Mr. Blair Wednesday reiterated that he believes it was totally justified and, by definition, legal.
"We went to war because we took the view that we had to enforce the United Nation's resolutions," Mr. Blair said. "That we could not continue, not post-September the 11th, with a situation where a country was in breach of United Nations obligations in respect of the production of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
The issue of Iraq refuses to go away for the prime minister, even as he tries to refocus on his domestic agenda ahead of elections widely expected to be held next year.