» Friday, February 6, 2004

WMD/45 Minutes

Asked if the Prime Minister would clarify the position on what he had known about WMD and the 45-minute claim, the PMOS said he thought that the British public were ready to nod-off within 45 seconds of a decision being taken to broadcast or write another story about this matter. He did not think we could have been any more fulsome in our explanation yesterday about the issue. The key point was the Prime Minister’s belief that Saddam had had a capability – both long range and battlefield. Whilst the 45-minutes point clearly gave precision to the state of readiness, it was perhaps less important to people within range of those munitions to know how quickly they could be deployed than whether they could actually reach them. That was the central point in all this.

Asked if the Prime Minister had thought that the 45-minutes claim had applied to short-range or long-range missiles, the PMOS said the important point was that the Prime Minister believed that Saddam had had both capabilities. As journalists would acknowledge on reading the Dossier, the intelligence had not specified the delivery system. He repeated that whilst the 45-minutes point gave precision in terms of our intelligence understanding regarding the state of readiness, it did not affect the overall belief of the Prime Minister, the Government and the intelligence services that Saddam had had both delivery systems. Subsequent to the conflict, the 45-minute point had assumed some great significance, for reasons that had been well documented. However, in the grand scheme of things, it was totally disproportionate to the rest of the intelligence that had been referred to and used in the run-up to war. Put to him that he was giving the impression that the Prime Minister ‘had not had a clue’ about which weapons the 45-minutes point had referred to, the PMOS said he thought that the question was a glib, short-hand way of ignoring the wider facts he had spelt out, which we believed were far more important.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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