According to a new report by BBC’s Panorama TV news program, MI6 (in the UK) and the CIA were told (via secret channels) by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.
However, then-U.K. prime Minister Tony Blair told British lawmakers before the war that intelligence showed Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons program was “active, growing and up and running."
Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, told CIA agent Bill Murray, in Paris at the time, through an intermediary that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD, reports The Guardian.
But Sabri said in a statement that the Panorama story was “totally fabricated."
Still, Panorama confirmed that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Iraq had no active WMD.
The meeting in Amman, Jordan, took place days before the British government published a widely discredited Iraqi weapons report in September 2002, which President Bush would use in his State of the Union address in 2003 as a justification to invade Iraq.
Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary for then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, told Panorama that he was not told about Sabri’s comments at the time, but did say: “There were ways in which people were misled or misled themselves at all stages.”
Panorama claims that MI6 stood by claims that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger, even though these were dismissed by other intelligence agencies.