updated 9/29/2004 9:19:18 AM ET 2004-09-29T13:19:18

Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday denied leading Britain into war on a false prospectus, despite intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq being wrong.

In his speech to the Labour Party’s annual conference Tuesday, Blair acknowledged that intelligence that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons was wrong.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday Blair suggested, however, he did not think that the “basis upon which we went to war was wrong.”

“We took the action as a result of Saddam’s failure to comply with U.N. resolutions, and that noncompliance still stands,” he said.

Blair said that following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he believed the world had to tackle the threat posed by rogue regimes proactively.

“What I did was take the view after September 11, we had to take a totally new approach and what that meant is that in respect of regimes developing WMD, instead of taking a reactive approach we had to take an active approach,” he told the BBC. “The place to start was Iraq because there was a string of U.N. resolutions, a long history of U.N. inspections not working.”

Blair rejected U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan’s assertion that the war in Iraq was illegal because Britain and the United States had failed to secure a second U.N. resolution specifically authorizing military action.

“That is his view. It is not our view,” Blair said.

“We took the view, we took it at the time, we take it now, that the war was justified legally because he (Saddam) remained in breach of the U.N. resolutions,” Blair said.

Blair denies failing to question intelligence
Blair denied that he failed to question the intelligence presented to him, as he had already committed himself to helping Washington topple Saddam and needed a justification.

“There was no doubt in respect of the intelligence about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction. That was absolutely clear. It wasn’t a question of being naive or gullible,” he said.

Blair dismissed speculation that he would resign midway through a third term in office in favor of his powerful Treasury chief.

According to persistent gossip in political circles and in the media, Blair intends to pass on the baton to Gordon Brown if the governing Labour Party is re-elected in national polls widely expected next year.

That has led to charges from the main opposition Conservative Party that the electorate will “Vote Tony, Get Gordon.”

Blair was asked whether he would be prime minister in five years, and whether it would be a “Vote Tony, Get Gordon,” election.

“No, it never has been,” responded Blair.

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