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Blair Responds to Butler Report (July 15)

Prime Minister Tony Blair has given his response to the Butler Review in the House of Commons.

The Committee, under Lord Butler, was set up by the Prime Minister in February to conduct a review of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

The Prime Minister said that the report supports the conclusions from Lord Hutton’s inquiry about the good faith of the intelligence services and the government in compiling the September 2002 dossier.

“But it also makes specific findings that the dossier and the intelligence behind it should have been better presented, had more caveats attached to it, and been better validated,” said Mr. Blair.

While the report finds little - if any - significant evidence of stockpiles of readily deployable weapons, the Prime Minister said, it does conclude that Saddam Hussein did intend to resume the pursuit of banned weapons programs - including nuclear weapons.

The Prime Minister said that this report is the fourth inquiry into the issue of good faith and integrity and “like the Hutton inquiry, like the report of the ISC before it and of the FAC before that, has found the same thing”.

“No-one lied. No one made up the intelligence. No one inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services.

“Everyone genuinely tried to do their best in good faith for the country in circumstances of acute difficulty. That issue of good faith should now be at an end.”

Mr. Blair also said that while it seems increasingly clear that Saddam did not have chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy, it does not mean that the threat was misconceived and the war unjustified.

“Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam,” he said.

Any mistakes should not be laid at the door of the intelligence and security community, said Mr. Blair.

“I accept full personal responsibility for the way the issue was presented and therefore for any errors made. As the Report indicates, there is no doubt that at the time it was genuinely believed by everyone that Saddam had both strategic intent in respect of WMD and actual weapons.”

The Prime Minister concluded:

“I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

“This Report will not end the arguments about the war. But in its balance and common sense, it should at least help to set them in a more rational light; and for that we should be grateful.”

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PM Responds to Butler Report