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  Leaked memo details US, UK war talks

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

TONY JONES: New evidence has emerged which appears to show that the United States and the British governments were set to invade Iraq, regardless of whether a second UN resolution was carried and even if international arms inspections failed.

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT

LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2006/s1605157.htm

Broadcast: 31/03/2006

Leaked memo details US, UK war talks
Reporter: Stephen McDonell


TONY JONES: New evidence has emerged which appears to show that the United States and the British governments were set to invade Iraq, regardless of whether a second UN resolution was carried and even if international arms inspections failed. In a leaked memo of a meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair, the US President also suggests an unmanned aircraft painted in UN colours might be flown over Iraq in the hope it would be shot down and provide a trigger for war. In a moment we'll talk to the British lawyer, Philippe Sands, who detailed the memo in his book Lawless World but first, this report from Stephen McDonell.

STEPHEN McDONELL: In February 2003, US secretary of state Colin Powell made a powerful but now discredited case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was an attempt to secure a second UN resolution as a justification for an invasion of Iraq. But five days earlier, George Bush and Tony Blair met at the White House and it's now being reported that they were then preparing for war, irrespective of any second resolution.

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT (1ST FEBRUARY, 2003): Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution it'd be welcomed if it was yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER (1ST FEBRUARY, 2003): What is important is that the international community comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable.

STEPHEN McDONELL: In recent weeks, details of a secret memo have emerged, recording what was discussed by Tony Blair and George Bush in the Oval Office on 31 January, 2003. According to the memo, George Bush told Tony Blair: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach". President Bush also said: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated". The memo was written by the man seen here walking next to President Bush. He's David Manning, the British Prime Minister's former chief foreign policy advisor, now Britain's Ambassador to the United States. Manning's record of the meeting quotes President Bush as saying the US would "twist arms" and even "threaten" in order to secure a second UN resolution. Tony Blair apparently responded that he was solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam. President Bush also said he thought it unlikely that, following an invasion, there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups. Leaked details of the memo have been appearing in the media over recent weeks, from Britain's Channel 4 to the New York Times, but the memo first publicly appeared in the latest edition of Lawless World by Philippe Sands. The book is a critique of international law, including its application in the invasion of Iraq. According to the memo, war preparations were so advanced that George Bush said the start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin. The real invasion was only nine days after the target date. Two weeks after the Blair-Bush meeting, Prime Minister Howard also went to Washington to meet the US leader. On live television, the US President made it clear he expected Australian military involvement.

US REPORTER: Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the coalition of the willing?

GEORGE W. BUSH (10TH JANUARY, 2003): Ah, yes, I do.

SIMON CREAN, LABOR FRONTBENCHER: Today, in these three simple words, the US President has nailed the deceit of this Government - nailed the deceit of the Prime Minister, of our involvement, and what the Prime Minister has effectively committed ourselves to in a war on Iraq.

STEPHEN McDONELL: The Prime Minister maintains he'd given no guarantees.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER (28TH JANUARY, 2003): Our position is, as I have explained it, we have not made a final decision about military involvement.

STEPHEN McDONELL: No notes from inside the Howard-Bush meeting have yet emerged. Stephen McDonell, Lateline.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

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