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Blair not for release of war legal advice

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, FEB. 25. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on Friday rejected calls for the release of the Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith's full advice on the legality of the Iraq war as fresh doubts were raised about the Government's version of it.

Faced with a volley of questions at a press conference in Downing Street, Mr. Blair made clear that he had nothing to add to what had already been said on the issue. Asked whether a statement made in Parliament in the run-up to the invasion was a "fair summary'' of Lord Goldsmith's opinion, he said: "Yes''.

"That's what he said, and that's what I say. He has dealt with this time and time and time again,'' Mr. Blair said testily. He refused to be drawn into the controversy further saying that the issue had been dealt with "literally scores of times and the position has not changed''.

Mr. Blair's remarks came as leading political figures, including the former Prime Minister, John Major, and prominent Labour MPs, urged the Government to publish the Attorney-General's full opinion in order to clear the air.

Allegations

The calls followed allegations, based on leaked documents published in The Guardian, that what was presented to Parliament as a summary of the Attorney-General's legal advice was actually drafted by Mr. Blair's aides in Downing Street.

"I cannot conceive that he (Mr. Blair) would have taken us to war without being absolutely certain of the legalities of it. If that is the case, and he is absolutely certain, why not publish the evidence so that everyone can see it and kill rumours?'' Mr. Major said.

Robin Cook, who resigned from the Blair Cabinet over the Iraq war, said: "What we have now discovered is that what we thought was the independent view of the Attorney-General was actually drafted by two people in No 10 following negotiations with the Attorney-General.''

Another former Cabinet Minister, Clare Short, demanded a parliamentary investigation into the allegations, and the Tory leader, Michael Howard, and his Liberal Democrat counterpart, Charles Kennedy, said the Government must come clean on it in public interest.

Lord Goldsmith has denied that he was "leaned on'' by the Government and said the summary presented to Parliament was correct.

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