» Thursday, February 5, 2004

WMD/45 Minutes

Asked the Prime Minister's reaction to Robin Cook's comments yesterday regarding what he had known about the 45-minute claim, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister's recollection of his conversation with Mr Cook last March was that they had not discussed the 45-minute point nor the issue of strategic/battlefield WMD. Rather, they had talked about the threat to UK troops from battlefield WMD. The PMOS also took the opportunity to remind journalists that Mr Cook had not mentioned the 45-minute point in his resignation speech because it had not been an issue at that point. Despite the lengthy clarifications and explanations at this morning's briefing, it was still being reported at lunchtime today that, because the 45 minutes referred to battlefield munitions, the Government had not believed that there was a threat from long range missiles. That was simply not the case. It was not a question of either or. The Government believed there had been a threat from both, as described on page 22 of the Dossier relating to Iraq's capability to deploy chemical and biological weapons through al-Hussein ballistic missiles which had a range of 650km, for example. It was important for people to recognise that the long-range capability claim had never rested on the 45-minutes intelligence.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Northern Ireland

The PMOS informed journalists that the Prime Minister would be meeting Ian Paisley this morning. The meeting should be viewed in the context of the review, which had begun on Tuesday, on how to move forward on the Good Friday Agreement.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Put to him that one would expect the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to ask for precise details about a claim that a potential enemy country could 'do something' within 45 minutes, the PMOS said he thought that this whole debate appeared to be an attempt to rewrite history and inject another element of conspiracy into the issue. He pointed out that, subsequent to the publication of the Dossier, the 45-minute point had played little part in the discussion about Iraq. Peter Bradley MP had put down some figures yesterday pointing out how little it had been raised during the Debate inasmuch as there had been two questions about it in the 38,000 Written Questions and it had not been mentioned at all in the 4,500+ Oral Questions. Nor had the Prime Minister drawn attention to it in his Statement to the House on 18 March. The PMOS underlined that we had not claimed, as some were reporting, that Saddam could attack the UK within 45-minutes, or indeed within any timescale. We had said consistently that, were he to deploy WMD, we would inevitable be drawn into any regional conflict. The Prime Minister had actually stated this point on the way to Camp David in September 2002. As the Dossier had made clear, the Prime Minister and the Government believed that Saddam had WMD and that he had the capability to deploy them both in a battlefield and a strategic capacity. Some people were implying that since the 45-minute claim did not apply to strategic or long-range missiles, the Government had in some way not made the case that we believed that Saddam had that capability. This was completely untrue. Page 22 of the Dossier set out clearly:

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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