A series of leaked secret British government memos renewed questions and debates over US motives for ousting former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, agencies reported Sunday.
One of the eight memos, all labeled "secret" or "confidential," showed British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts openly questioning whether Washington had a clear and convincing reason to go into war with Iraq.
The United States and Britain invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No such weapons have ever been found in Iraq so far.
The memos confirmed that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was concerned about Iraq's alleged WMD but indicated he was determined to go to war even though the British government thought a pre- emptive attack may be illegal under international law.
"The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussien's WMD program, but our tolerance of them post-11 September, " said a March 22, 2002 memo which was written to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
"But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW ( chemical or biological weapons) fronts, the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."
In a memo dated March 14, 2002, Blair's chief foreign policy adviser David Manning told the prime minister about a dinner he had just had with then US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is now US secretary of state.
Manning, who now serves as British ambassador to the United States, said: "We spent a lot of time at dinner on Iraq. It is clear that (US President George W.) Bush is grateful for your ( Blair) support and has registered that you are getting flak. I said you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the (United) States. And you would not budge either in your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option."
The memo dated March 22, 2002 from Ricketts to Straw said: "US scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing. To get public and parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for. "
A memo dated March 8, 2002 on Iraq from the Overseas and Defense secretariat to Cabinet Office said: "Since 1991, our objective has been to re-integrate a law-abiding Iraq which does not possess WMD or threaten its neighbors, into the international community. Implicitly, this cannot occur with Saddam Hussein in power."
A memo dated March 25, 2002 from Straw to Blair said: "If 11 September had not happened, it is doubtful that the US would now be considering military action against Iraq. In addition, there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with UBL (Osama bin Laden) and al Qaida. Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September."
The eight memos were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith who has written about them in the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.