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Blair aide says cabinet had "severe doubts" on Iraq

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

LONDON, July 9 (Reuters) - Senior members of Tony Blair's government suffered ''severe moments of doubt'' about whether to back the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the former prime minister's closest aide said today.

Alastair Campbell, who was Blair's chief media adviser and a defining figure in his decade-long administration, said Blair was the only leading government member who did not have private reservations about the March 2003 decision to invade Iraq.

''All of us, I think, had had pretty severe moments of doubt but he (Blair) hadn't really, or if he had he had hidden them even from us,'' Campbell wrote in his diaries, which were published in a blaze of publicity on Monday.

He said Blair's deputy, John Prescott, as well as several other ministers ''looked physically sick'' as the cabinet discussed the move on March 17.

The following day, March 18, 2003, Blair won parliament's backing for the Iraq war to bring down Saddam Hussein.

A former newspaper journalist, Campbell's techniques of managing, or ''spinning'', the news made him a controversial figure under Blair. He is often accused of being responsible for Blair's reputation of being obsessed with image over substance.

He admitted in the foreword that he had heavily edited his diaries, and ''The Blair Years'' contained only ''about a sixth'' of his recordings.

Much of the detail about the relationship between Blair and Brown, which was famously tense and is said by insiders to have erupted at times into blazing rows, has been edited out.

Campbell used a BBC interview on Sunday to defend this decision, saying he did not want to give Conservative leader David Cameron ''a goldmine'' to use against the new prime minister.

''I'm not going to deny ... there weren't times when relations (between Blair and Brown) were pretty tense and when some pretty harsh things were said. There were,'' he said.

Campbell went to work for Blair as his press secretary in 1994 and resigned in August, 2003, when he was caught up in a vicious row over Britain's rationale for going to war against Saddam.

He was accused of ''sexing up'' a dossier on Iraq which Blair used as a basis for his support for Washington.

His diaries seek to provide a ''fly on the wall'' view of the daily operations of Blair's premiership as well as some of his toughest challenges as prime minister -- among them efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland, the Kosovo war and the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Campbell says it was Blair, not him, who came up with Blair's famous tribute to Diana as ''the people's princess''. The former spin doctor himself describes Diana in a more direct way as ''absolutely, spellbindingly, drop-dead gorgeous''.

REUTERS SV RN1531

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