London, Nov. 25 (ANI): Britain was aware of the Bush administration's intentions of toppling Saddam Hussein years before the invasion, but it distanced itself from the prospect, knowing it would be unlawful, an Iraq war inquiry panel has been told.
"We were aware of these drumbeats from Washington and internally we discussed it. Our policy was to stay away from that part of the spectrum. We dismissed it at the time because it had no basis in law," The Guardian quoted Sir William Patey, then head of the Middle East department at the British Foreign Office, as telling the panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot.
Sir Peter Ricketts, a former chairman of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), told the inquiry that in late 2001 - following the 9/11 attacks on the US - he asked officials at the ministry to draw up an Iraq "options" paper.
"We quite clearly distanced ourselves in Whitehall from talk about regime change," said Ricketts. Up to March 2002 "there was no increased appetite among UK ministers for military action in Iraq," he added.
British intelligence also dismissed claims by elements in the US administration that the Iraqi leader was linked to Osama bin Laden.
"We didn't have any such evidence," Ricketts said.
According to leaked documents, Ricketts described the US in 2002 as "scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida....It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam." (ANI)