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Report: Blair warned of post-war Iraq chaos
Updated: 2004-09-19 10:50

Britain's foreign secretary and senior officials warned Prime Minister Tony Blair a year before invading Iraq that chaos could follow the toppling of Saddam Hussein, a newspaper said Saturday.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned of the risks of Iraq  sliding into post-war chaos. Straw warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair a year before the US-led invasion that there would be trouble in post-war Iraq.[AFP/file]

The Daily Telegraph said that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sent a letter marked "secret and personal" to Blair in March 2002 warning that no one had prepared for what might happen afterwards.

The Foreign Office declined to comment directly on the report but said in a statement that Iraq was moving toward a democratic future for the first time.

If confirmed, the leak -- which comes amid a sharp escalation in violence in Iraq -- could prove to be damaging to Blair with an election looming in 2005. It also illustrates the depth of concern in his government to joining the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks during a press conference with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, unseen, at Leeds Castle, England, Saturday Sept. 18, 2004 at the conclusion of high-stakes effort to revive a Catholic-Protestant government for Northern Ireland. [AP]
"There seems to be a larger hole in this (post-war planning) than anything," the Telegraph quoted Straw as saying.

"No one has satisfactorily answered how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better."

Blair defended his position Saturday.

"The idea that we did not have a plan for afterwards is simply not correct," he told a news conference Saturday.

"We did and indeed we have unfolded that plan but there are people in Iraq, outsiders as well as former regime elements, who are determined to stop us. That's why it is all the more important that we carry on until we win it and we will."

The opposition Conservatives -- which backed Blair over the war but later said their support was based on bogus intelligence information from his security services -- said the leak revealed a lack of a comprehensive reconstruction plan.

"The assurances given to us by both the prime minister and Jack Straw that such a plan was in hand were clearly misleading," the Conservatives' foreign affairs spokesman Michael Ancram said Saturday.

The Telegraph also said that senior ministerial advisers warned in a "Secret UK Eyes Only" paper that success would only be achieved if the United States and others committed to "nation building for many years."

"The greater investment of Western forces, the greater our control over Iraq's future, but the greater the cost and the longer we would need to stay," it said.


Blair built his case for war on the basis that Baghdad possessed banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD), although no biological or chemical weapons have been found following Saddam's overthrow.

But the Daily Telegraph said British officials believed President Bush instigated war because he wanted to complete his father's "unfinished business."

"Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD program will not show much advance in recent years," a Foreign Office policy director said.

Bush's father, George Bush, was president during the first Gulf War when a U.S.-led coalition freed Kuwait in 1991 and then drove Saddam's forces back deep into Iraq before withdrawing.

The foreign affairs spokesman for Britain's third political party, the anti-war Liberal Democrat's Menzies Campbell, said, if accurate, the letters provided a "devastating insight" into the political run up to war.

"The British Government has not come clean and been frank with the British people, either about regime change or the long term troop commitment which would result if Saddam was removed," he said.

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