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Blair Plans Probe on Pre-Iraq War Intelligence - 2004-02-03

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says London will launch an inquiry to investigate the intelligence work used to justify the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Mr. Blair told British lawmakers Tuesday that he now believes there are issues about the pre-war intelligence that need to be looked at. Foreign Minister Jack Straw will make a formal announcement about details of the probe later in the day.

Until now, Mr. Blair has firmly resisted calls to investigate apparent flaws in pre-war intelligence, saying the survey team searching for banned weapons in Iraq has not completed its work.

But President Bush's announcement Monday of a probe further increased pressure that had been building on Mr. Blair since chief U.S. weapon's hunter David Kay quit last month, saying he believed officials "were almost all wrong" in assuming Iraq had stockpiles of banned weapons.

The prime minister's spokesman said a report last week clearing the government of charges of exaggerating Iraq's weapons capability makes it possible to now discuss "in a more rational way...the perfectly valid questions that people have asked" about the failure to find any chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

President Bush announced Monday that a bipartisan U.S. probe will go beyond Iraq and look into whether American intelligence missed signs of possible weapons development and nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea.

Democrats say the probe is long overdue, but they said a commission appointed and controlled by the White House will not have the independence or credibility required to complete the task. They want the commission to be authorized by Congress and to report its findings this year.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.