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Britain 'Did Not Believe Iraq's Weapons Programme Was A Real Threat'

Britain and the US did not believe Iraq's weapons programmes posed a ''substantial threat'' before launching the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, the inquiry into the war has been told.

By The Telegraph

July 12, 2010 "
The Telegraph" -- Former UK diplomat Carne Ross claimed that the Government ''intentionally and substantially'' exaggerated its assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in public documents.

Mr Ross, who was First Secretary responsible for the Middle East at the UK's mission to the United Nations from 1997 to 2002, alleged that nuanced intelligence was ''massaged'' into ''more robust and terrifying'' statements about Saddam's supposed WMD.

He said in a statement to the inquiry: ''It remains my view that the internal Government assessment of Iraq's capabilities was intentionally and substantially exaggerated in public Government documents during 2002 and 2003.

''Throughout my posting in New York, it was the UK and US assessment that while there were many unanswered questions about Iraq's WMD stocks and capabilities, we did not believe that these amounted to a substantial threat.

''At no point did we have any firm evidence, from intelligence sources or otherwise, of significant weapons holdings.

''Most of the unanswered questions derived from discrepancies in Iraq's accounting for its past stocks and the destruction of these stocks.''

Mr Ross said he found no mention of an increase in the UK's assessment of the threat posed by Iraq in policy documents before the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

He said the presentation of intelligence changed after the atrocities, in particular in the British Government's September 2002 dossier on Saddam's weapons programmes.

This document contained the notorious claim that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes.

Mr Ross told the inquiry: "In these public documents, of which there were several, the nuanced judgments contained in the internal JIC (joint intelligence committee) assessments, for instance, were massaged into more robust and frightening statements about Iraq's WMD capability."

He said there was "no basis in firm intelligence" for the 45-minute claim.

The former diplomat added in his statement: "This process of exaggeration was gradual, and proceeded by accretion and editing from document to document, in a way that allowed those participating to convince themselves that they were not engaged in blatant dishonesty.

"But this process led to highly misleading statements about the UK assessment of the Iraqi threat that were, in their totality, lies."



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