2 February 2004

[Michael] Howard: Blair is odd man out on WMD

Downing Street appeared today to be on the brink of a climbdown over granting an inquiry into the intelligence basis for the war in Iraq.

Following the announcement in Washington last night that the US president, George Bush, had ordered an investigation into evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) allegedly held by Saddam Hussein, No 10 today said it was on the point of making a statement to parliament on the subject.

That could come either later today, or, quite possibly, as Mr Blair is questioned by the heads of select committees tomorrow morning.

No further details were immediately available, but the prime minister's official spokesman did concede that the verdict of Lord Hutton last week had changed the debate.

The spokesman said: 'What's different between last week and this is that the Hutton report, like the Commons foreign affairs committee report and like the intelligence and security committee report, has cleared the government of allegations of having politically interfered with, falsified or hyped the intelligence on WMD.

If the Bush inquiry makes Blair look odd, it makes John (I don't do apologies, I get them) Howard look positively eccentric.

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