WHY I FLIPPED; Goldsmith Met US Chiefs

The Mirror (London, England), January 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

WHY I FLIPPED; Goldsmith Met US Chiefs


Byline: JASON BEATTIE

TONY Blair's law chief changed his mind to give the green light for war after meeting US politicians.

Lord Goldsmith told the Chilcot inquiry he had originally warned Mr Blair military action against Saddam Hussein's regime would be illegal without United Nations' authority.

But the then Attorney General dramatically reversed his view after he flew to Washington for secret talks two months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Lord Goldsmith yesterday said that meeting, plus a conversation with Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary at the time, were the main reasons which led him to declare the invasion lawful.

His evidence reignites claims Britain was browbeaten by then US President George Bush into backing the conflict and it piles pressure on Mr Blair ahead of his appearance before Sir John Chilcot's inquiry tomorrow.

Lord Goldsmith said he repeatedly told Mr Blair a second UN resolution was essential before British troops could be sent into battle, advice which was "not welcomed".

The law chief stuck to his view after UN Resolution 1441 in November 2002 and on January 14, 2003 gave Mr Blair a draft opinion that a second resolution was essential.

REQUEST

It was then arranged for Lord Goldsmith to meet Britain's UN ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock and senior US figures. On February 10 2003, he spoke to top US legal advisers William Taft and John Bellinger, Mr Bush's lawyer Judge Alberto Gonzales and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Mr Bellinger was reported to have claimed later: "We straightened him out."

That meeting and talks with Sir Jeremy and Jack Straw made the law chief decide war could be argued legal without a second resolution.

He said: "It was a combination of Jeremy Greenstock, Jack Straw and what happened in Washington. …

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