Iraq inquiry: Tony Blair talked of undermining Saddam regime in 2001, MI6 boss says
Tony Blair had discussions on how to undermine Saddam Hussein's regime two years before the 2003 invasion, Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, has told the Iraq inquiry.

Published: 11:21AM GMT 10 Dec 2009

The 2001 discussions focussed on "political" actions which could help undermine the Iraqi regime, according to Sir John, who was then the prime minister's private secretary for foreign affairs.

Iraq was one of a number of countries where Britain would have liked to see regime change, he added.

However, giving evidence to the official inquiry into the conflict, he insisted that there was no talk at that stage in Whitehall of military action in Iraq.

He said that the approach adopted was based on the methods which had led to the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia the previous year.

Among the proposals considered was support for opposition groups and indicting Saddam for war crimes during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

"I think there are a lot of countries around the world where we would like to see a change of regime. That doesn't mean one pursues active policies in that direction," he said.

"Although support for change - change of behaviour, modernisation of systems, more open accountable systems, independence of the judiciary, free media, freedom of association - these sorts of issue that we pursued in our policies around the world that are designed to bring about improvements in the governments of countries, including change of leaders.

"That is not vastly different from the approach that we were pursuing in Iraq in a very difficult situation because Saddam Hussein was one of the world's last remaining dictators."