12th August 16:36
The Liar Domino Effect: Blair Will Now Blame France for Niger Lie (id)
Blair to blame France for Niger uranium row
FRASER NELSON POLITICAL EDITOR
TONY Blair is preparing a face-saving compromise with the United States in
an attempt to heal the rift over whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy
uranium from Niger.
France is expected to be blamed for the split between the CIA and MI6 - on
the grounds that Paris intelligence agencies shared hard evidence with
Britain, but refused to show it to the US.
As Britain is forbidden from passing on this intelligence, it will be
argued, the UK can be sure about the Niger connection - even though the CIA
says there is not enough evidence to substantiate the claim.
Aides to both the Prime Minister and George Bush, the US president, are
anxious to draw a line under the dispute before Thursday, when Mr Blair is
due to address a joint session of the US Congress.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, confirmed that British officials had not
compiled independent reports.
"This information on which we relied ... came from foreign intelligence
sources," he told BBC Radio.
"We believe in the veracity of the intelligence ... it just happens to be
one of the rules of liaison with foreign intelligence services that they own
A White House spokesman said Washington is not denying Britain's claim about
the Niger connection, merely saying that the CIA does not have enough
evidence to corroborate it.
"The president said that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. That still may
be absolute fact," said Ari Fleischer in his last day as White House
spokesman, adding. "This revisionist notion that somehow this is now the
core of why we went to war or a fundamental underpinning of the president's
decisions is a bunch of bull."
It has also emerged that the CIA was so anxious about the quality of
intelligence from Niger that it allowed Mr Bush to refer to it in his State
of the Union address in January only if he made clear the allegation was
Britain's, not the US's.
George Tenet, the head of the CIA, has publicly apologised for allowing
Niger to be mentioned even with this caveat - a sign that, even now, the US
does not believe Britain's assertion.
Mr Bush also defended his decision to mention the Niger connection - on the
caveat that he was citing British intelligence.
"When I gave the speech the [Niger] line was relevant," he said.
He acknowledged that the CIA has since admitted that some do***ents about
Niger had been forged.
Mr Bush yesterday defended the quality of intelligence he receives as "darn
good" and said he remained convinced that Saddam was attempting to develop a
weapons programme that threatened the world.
"Our country made the right decision," Mr Bush said.
"I think I get darn good intelligence and the speeches I have given are
backed by good intelligence."
The United Nations nuclear watchdog was last night said to believe that
Britain's evidence on Iraq trying to import uranium from Africa is all based
on the forged do***ents - not from French intelligence.
A diplomat in Vienna said in the UN's many dealings with London during its
weapon-hunt earlier this year, it saw nothing which has not now been proven
to be untrue.
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"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so
long as I'm the dictator." - GW Bush 12/18/2000.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that
we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic
and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
---George W. Bush on the Brink of Declaring War on Iraq.