11 July 2003

Grave crisis! Britain breaches UN Resolution 1441! Bush calls for war!
Okay, a light blogging day has caused me to have a rush of blood to the head. However, the Independent reports:

But Tony Blair was adamant in testimony this week that the UK had "separate intelligence" on Iraqi attempts to import uranium from Africa. Last night, the Foreign Office stated that Britain's information was based on "additional evidence other than documents, forged or genuine".

Britain has not handed this "evidence" to the IAEA for assessment, despite its obligations under the mandatory UN Security Council resolution 1441 to do so. The Foreign Office maintained last night that "we comply fully with our obligations to provide evidence with the IAEA" but that "in the case of uranium from Niger, we did not have any UK-originated intelligence to pass on".

A UN diplomatic source told The Independent that the UK position was "incredible". Another diplomatic source said: "The only concrete evidence the UN got was the Niger set of letters [subsequently proved to be forgeries] and it was told that there was nothing else."

In a letter to the US congressman Henry Waxman - who has been at the forefront of those questioning the White House's evidence - Paul Kelly, the State Department's assistant secretary for legal affairs, pointed out that when it passed the documents to the UN's Iraq Nuclear Verification Officer in Vienna, it inserted a caveat. Mr Kelly wrote: "[It] included the following qualification: 'We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims'."

Mr Baradei told the Security Council in March: "Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic."

On 10 June, the Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien said that "the Government shared all relevant information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction with the weapons inspection teams from both Unmovic and the IAEA". But less than a month later the Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane said: "The UK Government did not pass to the IAEA any information on Iraqi attempts to procure uranium."

The evidence in question is the separate evidence claimed by Blair before the House of Commons Liaison Committee (Question 194). That evidence has not been published anywhere or shared with the US or Australia. That evidence was not, as required by Resolution 1441, shared with the IAEA. Note that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claimed it had been passed to the IAEA in his appearance before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (Question 1269).

This separate evidence is getting almost as hard to find as the weapons of mass destruction themselves. Even the date on which the separate evidence was briefed to the IAEA during 2003 seems to be very hard to find.

We have three governments trying to maintain a common account of their war claims and they're just not doing a very good job.

The US and Australia continue to argue for the Iraq/al-Qai'da link but can't produce any evidence. The UK disavows the link.

The US and Australia disavow the Niger claim. The UK insists that the Niger claim is real and insists that they hold separate evidence apart from the forged documents.

The 45-minute claim is history and none of the three governments maintain it. The saddest (and funniest) of their communications problems was Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer defending the White House version of the Niger claim after the White House had abandoned it.

You would think 3 close allies with an intel-sharing arrangement going back to the Second World War would be able to do a better job of holding their story together.

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