UK Document Leak Reveals Plans for Saddam's Earlier Ousting

Politics: 1 May 2005, Sunday.

US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were determined to topple Saddam Hussein at least nine months before they launched the war in Iraq, British documents leaked in a Sunday newspaper say.

The secret documents could have a late impact in Britain's election next Thursday, in which Iraq -- and whether the prime minister told the truth when making his case for war -- has resurfaced as an issue in the final week of campaigning.

The Sunday Times printed what it said were secret minutes of a top-level cabinet meeting held in July 2002 to discuss Iraq, nine months before the invasion. According to the minutes, Blair spoke to his cabinet explicitly in terms of toppling Saddam.

"If the political context were right, people would support regime change," Blair is recorded as saying. "The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."