Blair rejected Bush’s last-minute offer to stay out of Iraq war

November 14th, 2007 - 8:08 am ICT by admin  
Bush forwarded the offer in the wake of apprehensions expressed by the US embassy in London just before the crucial Commons vote on the war that the Blair government could be brought down on the issue, The Independent quoted the book, as saying.

The book– ‘Blair Unbound’ by Anthony Seldon, Peter Snowdon and Daniel Collings, to be published by Simon and Schuster next Monday– says that Bush was so worried that he picked up the telephone and personally offered Blair a surprise opt-out.

Nine days before the Commons backed the military action, Bush astonished his then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice by suggesting that Britain need not join the invasion and could play a less controversial role during the aftermath.

The book further claims that the US embassy in London was sending Washington worrying accounts of Blair’s position.

“We were talking to backbenchers. What we heard was a fairly strident message that there was only so far that we could go, and the UN was extremely important. We heard some very ominous analyses of what could happen,” one official was quoted, as saying.

Rice told the book’s authors: “I remember standing in the Oval Office, and the President said, ‘We can’t have the British Government fall because of this decision over war.’ I said: ‘So what are you saying?’ He said, ‘I have to tell Tony that he doesn’t have to do this.’”

Her first thought was to call Sir David Manning, her opposite number in Downing Street, to prepare the ground, but Bush judged there was no time. “I’m going to call him right now,” he said.

“What I want to say to you is that my last choice is to have your government go down,” Bush was quoted as telling Blair, adding, “We don’t want that to happen under any circumstances. I really mean that.”

If it would help, he would let Blair “drop out of the coalition” and the US would find some other way for Britain to participate. Rice described the conversation as “very emotional” for the President.

Blair replied: “I said I’m with you. I mean it.” One confidant explained: “Having taken it so far, backing out seemed to him a rather pathetic thing to do.”

The book goes on to claim that Colin Powell, who was Secretary of State, plotted with Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to persuade Blair to restrain Bush. But Blair did not stand up to him when the crunch came.

“In the end, Blair would always support the President. I found this very surprising… Jack (Straw) and I would get him all pumped up about an issue. And, he’d be ready to say ‘look here, George.’ But as soon as he saw the President he would lose his steam,” Powell told the authors.

In 2002, according to the book, Blair decided to write to Bush to express his concern that the momentum towards war was growing too fast. But he “faltered and pulled his punches” and in effect told the President: “You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I’ll be with you.” (ANI)

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