UK

Tony Blair denies ministers ordered to 'burn' Iraq warning

Tony Blair Image copyright Getty Images

Claims that ministers were ordered to destroy a secret document on the legality of the Iraq war are nonsense, Tony Blair's office has said.

The Mail on Sunday says a report by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in 2003 said the conflict could be challenged under international law.

It claims PM Mr Blair was horrified and those who had a copy were told to "burn it, destroy it."

Any idea of destroying such a report was absurd, Mr Blair's office said.

The newspaper alleges the "burn it" order was issued after a 13-page legal opinion was presented by Lord Goldsmith to Mr Blair less than three weeks before the outbreak of war.

'Quite absurd'

The Mail quotes a senior No 10 figure at the time as saying: "There was pandemonium. The date when war was expected to start was already in the diary, and here was Goldsmith saying it could be challenged under international law. They said 'burn it, destroy it' and got to work on the AG."

The paper reports that among those who were told to destroy their copy was the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who it says flatly ignored the order. It says Mr Hoon told it that he would not comment on the allegations while the Chilcot inquiry into the war was still under way.

"This is nonsense as far as Tony Blair knows," his spokesman said of the Mail's allegations.

"No one ever said that in his presence and in any event it would be quite absurd to think that anyone could destroy any such document.

"Mr Blair and Lord Goldsmith dealt with all the circumstances surrounding the advice at the (Iraq) Inquiry at length and with all the documents. The fact is the advice given was that the action was legal and it was given for perfectly good reasons."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Goldsmith was the government's chief legal adviser under Tony Blair

While giving evidence at the Iraq Inquiry in January 2010 Lord Goldsmith admitted he changed his legal view of the Iraq war but said it was "complete nonsense" to claim he did so because of political pressure.

He said that until a month before the 2003 invasion, he believed it was "safer" to get a fresh UN resolution but gave the "green light" after deciding force was justified.

Last week Mr Blair apologised for mistakes made over the Iraq War - and said there were "elements of truth" in claims that it caused the rise of Islamic State.

He said "those of us who removed Saddam" did bear some responsibility for the situation in Iraq today.

Sir John Chilcot's inquiry, which began in 2009, is due to published its report in June or July next year.

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