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Blair faces probe over WMD threat

Blair is expected to come under pressure during the next parliamentary question time.
Blair is expected to come under pressure during the next parliamentary question time.

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing increasing pressure over the lack of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The Foreign Affairs Committee of Britain's House of Commons will hold an inquiry into the Blair government's decision to go to war in Iraq.

"The inquiry will consider whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office within the government as a whole presented accurate and complete information to Parliament in the period leading up to military action in Iraq, particularly in relation to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," a statement from the committee said.

"The committee will hear all the evidence in June, and witnesses will report to the House in July," it said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was already under pressure to prove his justification for joining the U.S.-led coalition, but the new inquiry is likely to turn up the heat.

There are strong feelings in Blair's Labour Party that many MPs went along reluctantly with the war, having been given assurances by ministers that strong intelligence information existed to prove Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

That it is taking so long to find the suspected weapons is leading to a great deal of worry among ministers. It is also giving opposition parties a chance to attack the government.

The Liberal Party, one of those in the opposition, is staging a debate on the Iraq war that will enable party members and others to raise their concerns that the British government exaggerated the threat Saddam posed.

It also will allow them to bring forward the claims some are making that the government doctored intelligence reports -- which Blair firmly denies -- to dramatize the threat.

Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, sent a letter to Blair Tuesday saying the role of the forces still in Iraq is being undermined by the cloud of questions hanging over Britain's intelligence services.

He wants the government to come forward and face questions about it.

An official spokesman for Blair said earlier Tuesday a parliamentary committee was already looking into whether intelligence material was toughened up to justify war.

"Given its remit, I would not be surprised if the ISC [Intelligence and Security Committee] did not already have this matter in hand," the UK's Press Association quoted the spokesman as saying.

"We do not see the need for an independent inquiry of the nature that people are demanding."

On Monday in Evian, France, Blair told a news conference that he stood "absolutely 100 percent" behind intelligence information on Iraqi weapons published before the war in Iraq. (Full story)

He called accusations that the information had been doctored "completely absurd" and urged the public to be patient as the search for weapons continued.

"I think it would be useful if we waited until we actually got the full evidence before us," he said. "In the meantime, it's important that people don't make a judgment until they actually get what the experts uncover."

Blair is expected to come under more pressure Wednesday during the regular question time in the House of Commons.

In the United States, an U.S. intelligence official said Monday the CIA would provide Congress with the weapons intelligence that formed the basis of Secretary of State Colin Powell's pre-war presentation to the United Nations. (Full story)

-- Senior European Political Correspondent Robin Oakley contributed to this report.

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