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Weapons critics blast Blair

Blair came under pressure during parliamentary question time
Blair came under pressure during parliamentary question time

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces a parliamentary inquiry over pre-war intelligence reports on WMD in Iraq. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (June 4)
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that claims the government doctored a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were "completely untrue."

During a heated exchange in the House of Commons, Blair denied that intelligence information was embellished to persuade politicians that Iraq had biological and chemical weapons, in an effort to win support for military action.

"All the allegations that are being made are completely without substance," Blair told the House of Commons. "It is completely and totally untrue."

Blair has come under increasing criticism after suggestions that his office amended intelligence reports and misled the public to strengthen its case for war.

"The truth is some people resent the fact it was right to go to conflict and we won the conflict ... Iraq is now free and we should be proud of that," Blair told members of Parliament.

Blair hopes that two separate inquiries into how intelligence was gathered and used will satisfy his critics, who include members of his own Labour Party.

One investigation into how evidence was presented by Blair's government will be held by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

Blair confirmed Wednesday that a second inquiry would be conducted by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. "I welcome this. The government will cooperate with it."

The debate focuses on a government dossier last September which said Iraq could launch chemical or biological attacks within 45 minutes.

The prime minister denied the 45-minutes reference was inserted in the dossier at the government's urging.

However, Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith demanded that the government go further to clarify the issue.

"Will the prime minister either publish that dossier right now or hold an independent inquiry so the public can judge for themselves," Duncan Smith said.

"These allegations are not going to go away," he added. "The truth is that nobody believe a word that the prime minister is saying."

Blair's credibility appears to have been damaged by the Iraqi weapons row, according to a poll Wednesday for Sky News.

Twenty-three percent of those polled said they would not trust Blair on other issues if weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq and 18 percent said they would change the way they voted.

Another staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, is also under pressure to explain to parliament the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons. (Full story)

Meanwhile in the United States, the CIA is to give Congress the weapons intelligence that formed the basis of Secretary of State Colin Powell's pre-war presentation to the United Nations. (Full story)


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