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Blair faces flak

London, Sept. 11 (Reuters): The most sensational claim made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify waging war on Iraq was criticised by an influential parliamentary committee today.

The now infamous assertion that Iraq could deploy banned weapons at just 45 minutes’ notice was used by Blair to steamroll intense public opposition to the US war.

But the Intelligence and Security Committee said the 45-minute point lacked context and was “unhelpful to an understanding of the issue” in a report that will further undermine trust in Blair.

The committee also criticised embattled defence secretary Geoff Hoon, who has been targeted by opponents as a fall guy for the government’s troubles over the case it made for war in Iraq.

Hoon is widely expected to be the first ministerial casualty of the Iraq crisis: the worst of Blair’s six-year premiership and one that has sent his public ratings tumbling.

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