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Blair ordered burning of secret memo saying Iraq war could be illegal, claims ex-defence secretary

Demonstrators talk on a podium outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on July 6, 2016 in London, England [Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]
Demonstrators talk on a podium outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on July 6, 2016 in London, England [Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]

Damning truth about Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq has been revealed by his own defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, in a new memoir that lays bare an order to burn a memo questioning the legality of the war.

Hoon, who was defence secretary for six years until 2005, has given a sensational blow-by-blow account of a No 10 "cover-up" and has claimed that Blair signed a "deal in blood" with former US President George Bush to back the war a year before it began.

Hoon describes his shock at being told to destroy secret advice from the attorney general Lord Goldsmith on the legality of the war in the run-up to the 2003 invasion. It was later revealed that Goldsmith said the war could be illegal. Days before fighting began however, he changed his mind and said it was legal.

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The attorney general's sudden U-turn has been a major source of controversy. In 2016 when the official Chilcot report on the Iraq war delivered a devastating verdict, it had raised questions over the way Goldsmith had hardened his position.

Satirical artist Kaya Mar poses with an artwork depicting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair draped in a US flag during a protest near to the venue of the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report in London on July 6, 2016 [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]

Satirical artist Kaya Mar poses with an artwork depicting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair draped in a US flag during a protest near to the venue of the publication of the Iraq Inquiry report in London on July 6, 2016 [BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images]

When details of the destroyed secret legal advice were raised in 2015, Blair dismissed it as "nonsense" but the latest blow-by-blow account by Hoon is harder to brush aside.

Hoon claims he was ordered by Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell "in no uncertain terms", that after reading the legal document he must "burn it". He recalls that officials in the Ministry of Defence were alarmed by the order and defied Downing Street by locking the memo in a safe instead.

The damning revelations have appeared as there are increasing calls to strip Blair of his knighthoodOver 700,000 people have signed a petition protesting the ennoblement of the former prime minister.

The petition holds Blair "personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts" and insists that he should be held accountable for war crimes.

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Asia & AmericasEurope & RussiaIraqMiddle EastUKUS
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