Hans Blix questions judgment of Bush, Blair over Iraq invasion and WMD

FORMER UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has questioned the judgment of Britain and the US in invading Iraq on the basis of evidence of weapons of mass destruction that was clearly “poor”.

Giving evidence to an independent British inquiry into the March 2003 war, Mr Blix said “I have never questioned the good faith” of then US president George W Bush and then British prime minister Tony Blair over the conflict.

“What I question was the good judgment, particularly in Bush, but also in Blair’s judgment,” in accepting the intelligence that suggested Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – the stated reason for war – he said.

Mr Blix was executive chairman of the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq from March 2000 to June 2003, charged with finding the WMD that London and Washington were convinced Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was hiding.

Such weapons were never found, undermining the whole basis for a conflict that left thousands of Iraqis and foreign soldiers dead.

Mr Blix told the Iraq inquiry in London that he initially believed Iraq had WMD, saying that while it had “unilaterally” destroyed much of the weapons it used in the early 1990s, elements remained that could have been built on.

He told the panel that he felt at first that a British dossier setting out the intelligence case in September 2002 was “plausible”, adding: “I felt that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction.”

However, he began to change his view after January 2003 because of a greater willingness by the Iraqis to cooperate with his inspectors and because sites identified by intelligence documents kept coming up empty.

“What was really important was about this business of sites given, was that when we reported we did not find any WMD they should have realised in Washington and London that their sources were poor,” he said.

Mr Blix said he informed Mr Blair and the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice of his concerns, telling the inquiry: “I alerted them that we were sceptical. Certainly, I gave the warning.

The former inspector said he wanted to continue the inspections and so indeed had Britain. “But the military timetable did not permit that,” he added.

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