Attorney General's advice to Blair leaked to Mail on Sunday

According to the Mail on Sunday, the full 13-page document of advice about the Iraq war drawn up by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has been leaked to the newspaper only 11 days before polling day in the 2005 general election.

The Mail on Sunday states that Goldsmith's advice to Tony Blair warned the Prime Minister that the decision to go to war would be challenged as it could be in breach of international law for six reasons:

1. In law, there was a strong argument that it was the job of the United Nations - not Blair - to rule whether Iraq had defied the UN's order to disarm

Goldsmith set out how it may be judged that it was the function of the UN Security Council, not an individual country such as Britain or America, to decide if Iraq was in 'material breach' of UN Resolution 1441, passed in November 2002 and giving it a 'final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations'. He also pointed out that although Blair could in theory make the decision, a court could decide otherwise.

2. Goldsmith questioned whether Britain could attack Iraq by using the UN Resolution 1441

The legal advice explained why the resolution's warning of 'serious consequences' if Saddam Hussain continued to flout the UN Resolution fell crucially short of permitting military action. The exact wording had important implications. It did not say 'all necessary means' - UN terminology for war, used when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait in 1990.

3. Goldsmith urged caution about going to war without a second UN resolution

He said Blair could go to war without one, but it would be much 'safer' and desirable to secure a second resolution giving specific approval to military intervention.

4. Blair was warned of the risks of relying on the earlier UN resolution used to eject Saddam Hussain from Kuwait.

The legal advice challenged Blair's claims that Britain and the United States had a right to go to war by 'reviving' UN Resolution 678, passed in 1990 when Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. Resolution 678 did not permit them to invade Iraq itself. The limited nature of Resolution 678 was one of the chief reasons the Allies did not try to topple Hussain when he was ousted from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. In principle, Resolution 678 could be revived but in practice it could be difficult.

5. Goldsmith drew attention to UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and his search for weapons of mass destruction.

On March 7, 2003, the day the legal advice was written, Blix reported to the UN Security Council that 34 Iraqi al-Samoud missiles had been disabled. He said Iraq was being more helpful generally and that no weapons of mass destruction had been found so far. By the time Blair received Goldsmsith's legal advice, he would have been aware of Blix's latest report.

6. He explained that the American government's position on the legality of the war did not apply in Britain.

Goldsmith explained the legal stance taken by George Bush and why
he faced none of the legal restraints confronting Tony Blair. The US Congress had given Bush special powers to declare the war legal in American law. It also detailed why, in the US view, a second resolution was unnecessary.

These six caveats were stripped from a summary of the advice published 10 days later on the eve of a crucial parliamentary debate on the war. The UK government has consistently refused to disclose the Attorney General's full advice and the UK Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, is currently investigating whether or not the document should in fact be released - disclosure was refused by the Government who claimed it fell under the section 42(1) exemption of "legal professional privilege" in the UK Freedom of Information Act.

Proof Blair was told war could be ruled illegal (Mail on Sunday, 24 April 2005)