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.


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