24/03/2005

Government under pressure over Iraq war legality

Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has rejected opposition calls to publish government advice on the legality of the Iraq war.

Mr Straw was forced to face MP's questions after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith's role came under scrutiny following the publication of a Foreign Office lawyers, Elizabeth Wulmhurst's, resignation letter.

Mr Straw rejected claims that the letter amounted to evidence for Lord Goldsmith to change his mind saying it was "nothing of the sort".

Documents obtained from the Foreign Office have supported the view that Lord Goldsmith did change his mind about the legality of invading Iraq, claiming it was legal to do so.

A copy of the resignation letter obtained by Channel 4 news apparently had this significant section blanked out.

On March 13, Lord Goldsmith told ministers war without a second UN resolution was legal.

According to the letter in which she resigned from her post as Deputy Legal Adviser to Michael Wood, Ms Wulmhurst said: “I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution to revive the authorisation given in SCR 678. I do not need to set out my reasoning, you are aware of it.”

Ex-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook suggested possible MPs might not have voted for war had they known of Ms Wulmhurst's concerns.

Channel 4 news obtained the blanked out section of the letter, which the government refused to release and published the minute dated March 18 on its website.

This claims that prior to March 7, Lord Goldsmith had believed the war was illegal without a second UN resolution.

In the blanked out section Ms Wulmhurst, who had been in post since 1974, had described the use of force against Iraq as a "crime of aggression".

Former Labour Minister, Clare Short, who resigned over the issue of the Iraq war told Channel 4 news: "I think the government had to cover it up because it was so devastating."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have demanded that the government explain Lord Goldsmith's sudden change of mind.

(CD/SP)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

27 January 2010
Goldsmith Before Iraq Inquiry
The Government's former chief legal adviser Lord Goldsmith did change his stance on the legality of the Iraq war prior to the invasion, he admitted today. Lord Goldsmith, the ex-Attorney General, said his first ruling that a second UN resolution was necessary had been "too cautious".
19 January 2004
Hoon meets with Iraq war widow
Underfire Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is to meet today with an Iraq war widow who has led calls for his resignation.
02 February 2010
Cabinet 'Misled' On Iraq, Says Short
A former 'rebel' cabinet minister has said her colleagues were "misled" into believing the Iraq invasion was legal. Appearing before an inquiry into the war today, Clare Short claimed Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's legal assessment had been "leaned on".
25 April 2005
Lib Dems call for Iraq war inquiry
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has called for a public inquiry into the war on Iraq, saying that Britain’s international reputation had been “damaged” by the way Prime Minister Tony Blair had handled the affair. Mr Kennedy attacked both Labour and the Conservatives over the decision to support US President George W.
18 September 2014
Police Recover World War One And Two Munitions In Oxfordshire
Police raids in Oxfordshire have uncovered a number of World War One and Two munitions, thought to have been stolen from heritage and protected sites. Police say the discovery was made at a house in Buckingham Crescent in Bicester. A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of theft from heritage and protected sites.