BLIX WARNED BLAIR ON WMDs

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HANS BLIX, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector in Iraq told yesterday’s BBC Radio Today programme that he had warned Tony Blair the month before the 2003 invasion that there may well be no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) found in Iraq.

Blix told the programme that his team had become suspicious of the quality of intelligence which pointed to Saddam having WMDs, because they had found no trace of them.

He revealed that the weapons inspectors had received hundreds of tips from all sources, including the intelligence services in the UK and US about where to look for WMDs.

Many sites had been visited and inspected, without notice, but no trace of WMDs was found.

‘We got tips not only from the UK but from other intelligence, the US as well, so perhaps some 100 all in all.

‘We had time to go to about three dozen of these sites and in no case did we find any weapons of mass destruction.’

He added: ‘We said if this is the best then what is the rest? Doubts arose from that.’

Blix said he spoke to Blair in February 2003, ahead of the March invasion, about his team’s findings.

‘In February, I said to Mr Blair “Yes, I also thought there could be weapons of mass destruction”, but I said “Are you so sure? Would it not be paradoxical if you were to invade Iraq with 200,000 men and found there were no weapons of mass destruction?”.

‘His response was “No, no”, he was quite convinced, the intelligence services were convinced, and even the Egyptians were convinced, so I had no reason to doubt his good faith at the time. But I was doubtful.’

Blix went on to reject suggestions by Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary in 2003, that he had since ‘applied gloss’ to what he was saying in the months leading up to the invasion.

He said the Iraqis were finally making progress in opening up to inspections and should have been allowed more time.

‘We warned the Iraqis that they needed to be more active and they became more active and we reported that to the (UN) Security Council, that we were actually making a great deal of progress,’ he said.

‘We could not exclude that there was still something hidden, because you cannot prove the negative, but I think they should have taken to heart that there was a change in the Iraqi attitude, that there was more cooperation and that things that were unresolved were becoming resolved.’

Dr Blix said he would be happy to testify before the Chilcot inquiry into the war, but had not been asked.

Blix also told the recently concluded Dutch inquiry into the Iraq war that Bush and Blair shared a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a threat, blinding them to the lack of evidence justifying war and causing them to mislead the public.

‘The war, in my view, was illegal, yes. The British knew the evidence was thin, and they should have remembered that before they started shooting,’ Blix said

When questioned if he thought Blair could be tried for war crimes, Blix said: ‘Well, yes, maybe so. Well, we’ll see. It’s not very likely to happen.’