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Excerpts of the Downing Street memo

Matthew Rycroft, a top foreign policy aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote the memo, which is dated July 23, 2002, based on notes he took during a meeting of Blair and his advisers. The memo was first disclosed by The Sunday Times on May 1:

C [reported to be Richard Dearlove, the head of Britain's intelligence service who had recently met with Bush administration officials] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam [Hussein], through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC [US National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action. . . .

The defense secretary [Geoffrey Hoon] said that the United States had already begun ''spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January. . . .

The foreign secretary [Jack Straw] said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force. . . .

The prime minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD.

Source: The Sunday Times

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