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Catfish and Cod
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Blair on the second piece of intelligence
(Link path: The White House)

At today's 5:30 press conference in the front hall of the People's Mansion... (all emphasis mine)

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: First of all, before I answer the question you put to me about other countries helping us, let me just say this on the issue to do with Africa and uranium. The British intelligence that we had we believe is genuine. We stand by that intelligence. And one interesting fact I think people don't generally know, in case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased round about 270 tons of uranium from Niger. So I think we should just factor that into our thinking there.

Analysis: The Prime Minister strongly implies (although he doesn't definitely state) that the second piece of intelligence does not refer to the eighties purchases.

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: On your other point, Adam, the issue here is very, very simple. The whole debate, for weeks, revolved around a claim that either I or a member of my staff had effectively inserted intelligence into the dossier we put before the British people against the wishes of the intelligence services. Now, that is a serious charge. It never was true. Everybody now knows that that charge is untrue. And all we are saying is, those who made that charge should simply accept that it is untrue. It's as simple as that.

Analysis: But the Washington press, both liberals and conservatives, have been ignoring this fact for days. Only today, with Blair's live public comments, were these ideas injected into the public consciousness. Will they form a substantative part of the debate? Will anyone investigate the truth of Britain's claims? Stay tuned.

THE PRIME MINISTER: If I can just correct you on one thing. I certainly did not say that I would be proved wrong. On the contrary; I said with every fiber of instinct and conviction I believe that we are right. And let me just say this one other thing to you, because sometimes, again, in the debate in the past few weeks, it's as if, prior to the early part of this year, the issue of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction were some sort of unknown quantity, and on the basis of some speculative intelligence, we go off and take action...

The history of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction is a 12-year history, and is a history of him using the weapons, developing the weapons, and concealing the weapons, and not complying with the United Nations inspectors who were trying to shut down his programs. And I simply say -- which is why I totally agree with the President -- it's important we wait for the Iraq survey group to complete their work. Because the proposition that actually he was not developing such weapons and such programs rests on this rather extraordinary proposition that, having for years obstructed the United Nations inspectors and concealed his programs, having finally effectively got rid of them in December '98, he then took all the problems and sanctions and action upon himself, voluntarily destroyed them but just didn't tell anyone. I don't think that's very likely as a proposition. I really don't.

Analysis: reduction ad absurdum. If Saddam really had forsaken weapons development forever, he could have simply shown everything, and that would have been that. The Administration, having founded their case on WMD back in September 2002, would have been completely stymied.