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投稿者 木村愛二 日時 2003 年 4 月 19 日 16:27:34:







Prove Iraqi guilt, MPs tell Blair/threat of a fresh rebellion from Labour backbenchers/the war was illegal/ guardian/April 19


Prove Iraqi guilt, MPs tell Blair
Nicholas Watt, Michael White, James Meek in Baghdad and Oliver Burkeman in Washington
Saturday April 19, 2003
The Guardian

Tony Blair is facing the threat of a fresh rebellion from Labour backbenchers who are growing increasingly alarmed that the failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will confirm that the war was illegal.

As a 1,000-strong Anglo-American task force of inspectors prepares to search hundreds of suspicious sites, Labour MPs are demanding an inquiry to establish whether MI6 misled ministers about Iraq's weapons programme.

Backbench Labour MPs who feel they were duped into backing the war on the basis of questionable intelligence want the cross-party Commons intelligence and security committee to carry out an investigation. One well-placed former minister said: "The intelligence committee is raring to challenge the veracity of what the security services told them about Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons. They were told what he had and where it was. There may be a perfectly innocent explanation for all this, but they don't seem to be able to find the stuff."

Britain and the US are so desperate to uncover a 'smoking gun' to justify the war against Iraq that they have drawn up a list of 146 sites to be inspected in Iraq. A team of civilian scientists and military forces, dubbed Usmovic because they are a US-led rival to the UN's Unmovic inspection force, will interview up 5,000 Iraqi scientists.

US forces have begun to interrogate General Amir al-Saadi, the head of Iraq's weapons programme, who surrendered last weekend. But General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Gulf, attempted to lower expectations when he warned that it may take a year to uncover details of Iraq's arsenal.

Such comments are causing alarm in the Commons. Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, who voted in favour of war because of Mr Blair's chilling warnings about Iraq's banned weapons, said: "We were led to believe that the Iraqis could fire them within 45 minutes. If that was the case where have they vanished to? We were told there was hard evidence."

David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons health committee, said: "For many of us who talked to ministers there was an implication that more was known. Therefore a lot of people are anxious to establish the truth."

His remarks were echoed by the former defence minister Doug Henderson, who warned that the war would in retrospect be deemed illegal if no banned weapons were found, because the military action was taken under UN resolutions calling for Iraq to disarm.

"If by the turn of the year there is no WMD then the basis on which this was executed was illegal," he said.

MPs are also starting to ask questions about the conduct of the intelligence services. They want to see the evidence that persuaded members of the Commons intelligence committee to back government efforts to win round waverers before the war began. One MP is telling committee members: "You kept saying you wished you could tell us, so now will you tell us?"

Critics suspect that Downing Street may have hyped up the intelligence reports about Iraq's banned weapons. They point to last month's resignation speech by Robin Cook, in which the former foreign secretary said: "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term."

Such doubts were echoed yesterday by a three-star Iraqi general who told the Guardian in Baghdad that the country had purged itself completely of weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Gulf war.

The general, who worked in the chemical weapons section of the Iraqi military for more than 30 years and asked not to be identified, insisted that gas masks, anti-contamination suits and atropine injectors had been intended to protect Iraqis rather than for offensive use. "We do not have any kind of forbidden weapons," he said.

Describing the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iran in the 1980s as "abnormal", he said the country had possessed weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against its neighbours.

"If I have nerve gas and I know the Americans have a better version, it would be stupid of me to use it against them," he said. "The concept of having this kind of weapon was just to try to protect ourselves against others who had them, like the Israelis and the Iranians."

The doubts about Iraq's WMD programme mean that some Labour MPs will be sceptical even if a 'smoking gun' is uncovered. Mr Hinchliffe said there was a "cynical view" among Labour MPs that the coalition inspectors will doctor the evidence.

Britain wants to reassure critics by appointing an international body on the lines of the Northern Ireland disarmament commission to verify any weapons finds.

But the former cabinet minister Gavin Strang said the coalition should go all the way by allowing UN inspectors back into Iraq. "I do not understand why we have not been able to allow Hans Blix to go back in," he said.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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