Blair 'Misled MPs on Legality of War'; Law Chief's Explosive Evidence to Iraq Inquiry

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Byline: Tim Shipman, Ian Drury

TONY Blair misled Parliament and the public about the legality of the Iraq War, according to explosive documents released last night.

Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith said the then prime minister's claims that Britain did not need a UN resolution explicitly authorising force were not compatible with his legal advice.

In secret testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry, declassified yesterday, Lord Goldsmith said Mr Blair based his case for invasion on grounds that 'did not have any application in international law'.

He said he felt 'uncomfortable' about the way Mr Blair ignored his legal rulings when making the case to Parliament.

Asked whether 'the Prime Minister's words were compatible with the advice you had given him', he replied: 'No.' The shattering testimony is a watershed moment for the Iraq Inquiry, as it is the first time that Lord Goldsmith has directly contradicted Mr Blair. The claims will form the centrepiece of Mr Blair's second grilling by the inquiry on Friday. The written questions and answers from Lord Goldsmith's second testimony to the inquiry, released yesterday, detail how the Attorney General was frozen out of government decision-making over the drafting of Resolution 1441, which he eventually used to justify the war after months of pressure from Mr Blair and his closest aides.

The UK and U.S. tried to get a second UN resolution explicitly justifying an invasion but abandoned the effort when France threatened to veto their plans in the UN Security Council.

In the months before the 2003 war Mr Blair repeatedly claimed that he did not need a second resolution if another country decided to issue an 'unreasonable veto'. But in his evidence Lord Goldsmith reveals that he had explicitly told Mr Blair that such claims were nonsense when they met to discuss the legality of war on October 22, 2002.

Lord Goldsmith says his advice 'must have been understood by the Prime Minister'.

Yet on January 15, 2003, Mr Blair told the Commons 'there are circumstances in which a UN resolution is not necessary'. …