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Tony Blair says he is '100 %' behind Iraq evidence


PM says he is '100 per cent' behind Iraq evidence

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he stands '100 per cent' behind the evidence that was presented on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Blair was speaking at the G8 summit in Evian, where leaders are discussing issues including trade, the fight against terrorism and global health funding.

Read the transcript in full below.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good Morning. I thought it might help you if I give you an update on where we are at the summit. One of the major impulses for action at the G8 level has been the involvement of developing countries, and I think there is a real sense in which in respect of relationships between the developed and developing world, and in particular in respect of Africa, there is a real sense of momentum and of a desire to change the basic relationship to one of co-operation and partnership for the future. And I think out of the summit there is the chance of getting some very key deliverables here. The first is in relation to trade, I think there is an acceptance that it is important that the WTO meeting in Cancun in September is a success, and that requires tough and difficult decisions all ways round. Secondly, in relation to global health and in particular the fight against HIV Aids, there is a willingness on the part of Europe to match the commitment given by the United States in order significantly to increase the amount of funding we are going to put into the global health fund, and also into the fight against HIV Aids which is the present scourge of the African continent.

In respect of conflict resolution and peacekeeping, there will be agreement to the plan to develop an African peacekeeping capability over the next few years in accordance with the plan that is being drawn up, led by the United Nations. That is a very important step forward, it means that in the future when there are issues such as the Congo that arise, or Sierra Leone, there will actually be an indigenous capacity in order to resolve these conflicts and in order to keep the peace. And finally in relation to Africa, there is very strong support for the whole concept of Nepad and the belief that it is only on the basis of partnership and mutual responsibility we are going to sort these problems out.

And the action plan that we have got on the Nepad Partnership indicates real and significant progress with many countries now agreeing in Africa to a review mechanism that allows a judgement to be made about how far they are making the changes and improvements in respect of governance that then trigger greater commitment to help from the developed world. So I think in respect of Africa that is very positive. Secondly, obviously we will be discussing the issues to do with proliferation and international terrorism, the twin threats of weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism where again I think you will find a very concerted desire on the part of the whole of the international community to tackle these problems in a coherent way. And thirdly of course we have had a discussion on the economies of the G8 where there has been an agreement particularly on the need for structural reforms in relation to Europe, but also on the need to make sure that we can develop growth and stability within the international economy. And again I think the auger isn't very good in terms of what people said both about their own economies and in relation to the world economy as a whole.

I should say one other thing too, which is that there has been a real recognition of the immediate problem there is in Ethiopia in respect of the famine there and a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to fund whatever is necessary in order to deal with the problems of that country. And I think again that is an important part of the discussions that we have had.

QUESTION:

Do you agree with President Chirac who said last night that he believes that a majority of nations in the world want a multi-polar world, that that should be reflected in the cast list of future summits of this kind, or are you still sticking with what you said in Warsaw and what George Bush said about effectively Europe working with United States leadership?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is very important that Europe works with the United States leadership, and I think if you were to ask President Chirac whether he wants Europe to work with the United States he would reply yes to that.

Now it is a wholly different question as to who are the people we invite to the summit, the G8. And I think what has happened is that over the past few years the G8 has been modified in terms of what has happened for very obvious and natural reasons, because we had China there yesterday, India there, countries from Africa, countries from South America also. I think that is a different issue and that is not to do with multi-polar worlds competing with each other versus a concept of partnership, that is to do with frankly what is a changing world set of circumstances where it becomes increasingly odd if you are discussing the main issues of the world that some of the major countries and powers in the world aren't present for the discussion.

QUESTION:

You were discussing weapons of mass destruction. In relation to Iraq, two of your former Cabinet colleagues, Clare Short and Robin Cook, have suggested that the evidence you presented in the run up to the conflict was at best misleading and at worst deliberately deceiving. Could I ask how do you argue that people should believe you and not them, and could

I ask if you stand by your assertion before the war that Saddam Hussein was capable of delivering a weapon of mass destruction at 45 minutes notice?

PRIME MINISTER:

I stand absolutely 100% behind the evidence, based on intelligence, that we presented to people, and let me just make one or two things clear.

Firstly the idea that we doctored intelligence reports in order to invent some notion about a 45 minute capability of delivering weapons of mass destruction, the idea that we doctored such intelligence is completely and totally false. Every single piece of intelligence that we presented was cleared very properly by the Joint Intelligence Committee. Secondly, the idea, as apparently Clare Short is saying, that I made some secret agreement with George Bush back last September that we would invade Iraq in any event at a particular time, is also completely and totally untrue. What I have explained to people is that we are 5 or 6 weeks after the end of the conflict, the first priority has been to re-establish the basic humanitarian services for people in Iraq. In relation to weapons of mass destruction, there is an international survey group that is going in, actually starting its work this week. They will be interviewing scientists and experts, they will be investigating the sites. When we accumulate that evidence properly we will give it to people. And I simply say to you that the British intelligence services are amongst the best and finest in the world, and the idea that Saddam Hussein has for 12 years been obstructing the UN weapons and inspectors, has been engaged in this huge battle with the international community, when all the way along he had actually destroyed these weapons, is completely absurd. So I simply ask people to just have a little patience. There is a process in place, it will take some time to carry out, but when we get the results of it we will put it before people.

QUESTION:

You keep saying evidence. Is it the case though that it is possible that we may never find the weapons of mass destruction, simply evidence that at one point or other they did exist?

PRIME MINISTER:

As I say, I think it would be useful if we waited until we actually got the full evidence before us. But I would point out to you, we already have, according to our experts, two mobile biological weapons facilities that were almost certainly part, according to our intelligence, of a whole set of those facilities. We have a situation where I don't think there is any doubt in anybody's mind that Saddam Hussein accumulated these weapons, indeed he used the weapons against his own people. And I have no doubt at all, as I said to you earlier, that the assessments that were made by the British intelligence services will turn out to be correct. So why don't we just wait and let the people do their work properly. In the meantime, it is important that people don't make a judgement until they actually get what the experts uncover.

QUESTION:

How far do you think that this G8 summit has been able to heal some of the clear divisions after Iraq? There was clearly an agreement not to mention the war, but that doesn't mean the problems have gone away, there seems to be still a frostiness there. For example President Bush is leaving as we speak, and even you are not staying for President Chirac's speech at the end. Do you really think the divisions are healed?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well first of all people have mentioned the war in Iraq and we recognise there were differences. Secondly, there is also a sense that people are coming together. The reason why President Bush is leaving is a reason which is understood by everybody, that the Middle East peace process is now moving forward. This is of fantastic importance. A few months ago if you had said at these press conferences, if I had said I think that President Bush will be seeing Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders out in the region in order to push the Middle East peace process forward, I think most of you would have said I was being extremely, if not wildly, optimistic. It is happening. And he goes there with the full support of the G8 members. Also in relation to the tensions, well of course there were tensions during the Iraq war, we had a fundamental disagreement. But it is interesting that in the United Nations we have come back together now. And in the discussions that we are having on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, I think you will find there is general agreement, I think you will find that it is a pretty strong statement that comes out from the G8 countries and there is a general acceptance that this is a significant and serious issue.

QUESTION:

Could you expand on the economic assessment this morning and particularly what was said about structural reform in Europe?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think everybody in the G8 countries recognises that the impact of globalisation and technology is meaning we have to adapt and change our economies very quickly. And it was interesting, whether it was me talking about healthcare or university or reform, or practically everybody talking about pension reform, or Gerhard Schroeder telling us about his labour market reforms, everybody understands that in the modern world you have got to adapt and adjust your public services and economies very quickly. And what was fascinating was the degree of unanimity that these are real serious issues. The French government obviously are taking on the crucial issue of pension reform, and this is not I think any longer something that comes from left or right, it is something that is driven by the enormous impact of globalisation and of the changes in technology. And there is a general recognition that unless we change and reform our economies quickly we are not going to be able to survive with the same living standards in the modern world.

QUESTION:

Do you accept that the issue of weapons of mass destruction is important because it is a matter of trust in you personally? And when a former Cabinet Minister says that you duped not just her, but the Cabinet and the people, that is an extraordinarily serious charge.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, but charges should have evidence and there is none, and I have made it absolutely clear what the position is this morning.

QUESTION:

Robin Cook and others are now saying there should be a full independent inquiry into the events leading up to the war. Do you think it is possible that might happen?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is important that if people actually have evidence, they produce it. But it is wrong, frankly, for people to make allegations on the basis of so-called anonymous sources when the facts are precisely the facts that we have stated.

QUESTION:

You have talked this morning about the global economy, Prime Minister, but all the things you want to do for Africa and other developing countries depend on the global economy picking up. The latest economic numbers out of Europe this morning are very weak in terms of economic recovery in the manufacturing sector and it depends on that. What optimism are you able to bring from this morning's session which might encourage people and might encourage investor and consumer confidence? And what have you done to press the United States on export credits, particularly in the agricultural sector, which matter to these developing countries?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well on the WTO, we have obviously been pushing forward on all accounts and we have a very open position. Britain believes in free trade and I think there is a general acceptance the negotiation is going to be difficult, but we have got to break down the barriers on agricultural subsidies. In respect of the first, I think people were more optimistic round the table. The American President gave his view of the American economy and prospects for growth, and there is an acceptance within the Eurozone and within Europe that provided we do face up to and overcome these challenges of structural reform, we have got every prospect of resuming strong growth in the near future and that is obviously what we want to see.

ENDS

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