British invasion arguments withdrawn

The withdrawl came as it faced demands in parliament for a “full apology” on how it presented the case for war.

However, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stoutly defended his government’s decision to join the US-led conflict as he was grilled by members of parliament following a new US report showing Saddam Hussein possessed no banned weapons at the time.

“Although we can now see that some of the intelligence was wrong, I continue to believe the judgments we made and the actions we took were right,” Mr Straw told the House of Commons.

Given Saddam’s suspicious behaviour toward United Nations arms inspectors and the intelligence then available, Mr Straw said it would have required “a huge leap of faith” to give the Iraqi dictator the benefit of the doubt.

However, Mr Straw’s predecessor, Robin Cook, asked whether it “would have been wiser” to give the inspectors time to do their work given the doubts about weapons and the new findings of the Iraq Survey Group.

The survey group released a 1,000-page report last week that found Saddam had destroyed most of his chemical and biological weapons after losing the 1991 Gulf War and that his nuclear program had “progressively decayed.”

Mr Straw told members of parliament that the head of British intelligence service MI6 John Scarlett had written to lawmakers “formally withdrawing” two pre-war claims about Iraq’s alleged weaponry.

Thee claims concerned intelligence on Iraq’s ability to produce biological agents, and to mount an attack using weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes, the latter of which was one of London’s most high-profile warnings about Saddam.

Mr Straw faced harsh criticism from the opposition Conservative Party, which supported the decision to go to war but has blasted the government for the ensuing chaos in Iraq and the handling of intelligence.

Foreign affairs spokesman for the conservatives, Gary Streeter, accused the government of “stripping out” caveats from intelligence before presenting its case to the public.

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