Blair falsely blamed Chirac over Iraq: aide

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Tony Blair played the "anti-French card" by falsely blaming then-president Jacques Chirac for the collapse of talks at the United Nations on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an aide told Britain's war inquiry Wednesday.

Stephen Wall, Blair's former EU adviser, said the ex-prime minister ordered his media chief Alastair Campbell to tell journalists that Chirac had threatened to veto any Security Council resolution -- even though they knew Chirac had not.

"The prime minister was giving Alastair his marching orders to play the anti-French card," Wall told the Iraq war inquiry in London.

"I do recall getting a call from Joyce Quin, a former Europe minister, who said to me 'Do the prime minister and Alastair know that what they're claiming Chirac said isn't what he actually said?' and I said 'Joyce, I believe they do know'."

The evidence comes before Blair is due to make his second appearance before the inquiry on Friday, following a highly charged session in January last year on the lead-up to the invasion.

Blair's dealings with Chirac were famously strained and they clashed over a range of issues, especially the invasion of Iraq, which Chirac steadfastly opposed.

Wall said Blair's actions reflected the strain he was under at the time of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Britain eventually pulled out of the country in 2009.

"I can remember about that time Tony Blair coming into my room. He said: 'I am like a man walking across a precipice upon a tightrope with only a straw to balance with.' That was a reflection of how dire the domestic situation was," the aide said.

Chirac earned plaudits for standing up to US president George W. Bush but Blair is still loathed by many for following the United States into Iraq, with protesters saying they will target his appearance at the inquiry this week.

© 2011 AFP

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