Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM Facing Personal Grilling over Iraq

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

PM Facing Personal Grilling over Iraq

Article excerpt

Byline: By Huw Lewis

Tony Blair last night faced a new crisis, as an influential committee of MPs announced an inquiry into the Government's decision to go to war with Iraq.

The inquiry by the backbench Foreign Affairs Committee is expected to focus on how ministers presented intelligence information on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

It comes after the Prime Minister was accused of using `spin' to exaggerate evidence and whip up support for war in Iraq.

But anti-war Newcastle North MP Doug Henderson said the move was not enough - and demanded a full judicial inquiry.

He said: "This is not a tough-enough committee to look into what the Prime Minister knew before military intervention that made him believe there was a threat from weapons of mass destruction.

"This committee does not have the legal training to be able to interrogate people in an effective way. What is needed is a judicial inquiry."

Mr Henderson intends to question Mr Blair on the issue in a Commons debate about the G8 Summit today.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce that the Government's internal Joint Intelligence and Security Committee will look into the issue.

But the Foreign Affairs Committee - made up of backbench MPs - is likely to go further, holding its hearings in public in June and publishing a report in July.

The Committee is considering calling Mr Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and serving intelligence officers to give evidence.

Mr Straw last night flew back to Britain early, from a Nato meeting in Madrid, to attend a Parliamentary debate today on the Iraq conflict, called by the Liberal Democrats.

The Foreign Office said: "We are ready to co-operate fully with the Foreign Affairs Committee in their inquiries."

In the US a Congressional inquiry has also been launched into the possible abuse of intelligence information on WMDs.

The Government has been under pressure to justify its decision to go to war after claims last week that intelligence reports had been `sexed up' to include a claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical and biological weapons at 45 minutes' notice. …

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