Howard attacks Blair's handling of Iraq crisis

Contributed by webmaster on May 12, 2004 - 09:47 PM

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Folkestone and Hythe MP <TABLE width=150 align=left border=0><TABLE class=lightbg cellPadding=4 width=145><TD class=mcblack align=middle>
Michael Howard
<TD width=5><IMG height=1 alt="" src="" width=5>Michael Howard has highlighted Tony Blair's crumbling credibility, as public and political confidence ebbs over the Prime Minister's handling of the worsening Iraq crisis.

In a powerful attack in the Commons, the Conservative Leader warned that allegations about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by British troops has triggered "the greatest crisis in Iraq since the war ended" - adding immeasurably to the dangers and difficulties faced by coalition forces.

With Mr Blair under pressure from MPs of all parties to explain why he failed to see an explosive Red Cross report containing the claims of mistreatment of detainees, and with some of his own backbenchers signalling their wish for the early withdrawal of UK forces, Mr Howard told the Premier:

"Of course we are all immensely proud of what British troops are doing in Iraq; but you have failed to give any explanation for why you did not see this crucial report, which was presented to your special envoy, for nearly three months.

"I am afraid the country will conclude that there is no sensible explanation for that fact. Iraq is by far the most sensitive and difficult challenge facing the country. People want to know that their Government has a grip o­n what it is doing and what is going o­n."

Mr Howard seized o­n the fact that although they received the Red Cross report in February, at least four senior ministers - including Mr Blair - claim they did not see the document or knew nothing about it, Mr Howard told the Prime Minister: "How can the people of this country have confidence in you and your government?"

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have called o­n Foreign secretary Jack Straw to publish a classified telegram received from the office of Tony Blair's special envoy in Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, o­n February 27 - the day after the presentation of the Red Cross document.

In a letter to Mr Straw, his Conservative opposite number Michael Ancram stated: "In order to clear up the o­n-going confusion, it would be helpful if you released the contents of the telegram."

Mr Ancram also tabled Parliamentary questions asking Mr Straw to confirm which office received the telegram and to which other departments and ministers it was distributed.