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British newspaper publishes controversial note about Israel that UK sought to suppress - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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LONDON (AP) – Britain’s move to suppress handwritten comments on a dossier on Iraq that accuses Israel of brazenly flouting international laws in its pursuit of nuclear weapons backfired Thursday when a newspaper published the redacted notes.

In a draft of a dossier on Iraq’s weapons capabilities in 2002, a note scribbled in a margin likened Israel’s approach to that of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Guardian reported.

“No other country (apart from Iraq) has flouted the United Nations’ authority so brazenly in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” the note reads, according to the newspaper.

Britain’s Information Tribunal, which rules on freedom of information issues, had allowed the handwritten note to be removed when the government published the dossier. The Foreign Office had argued that publishing the comments of a lone official would likely damage relations with Israel. But the Guardian published the note Thursday and a statement it said was made by a Foreign Office official to the tribunal. The Foreign Office said it did not dispute the documents were genuine, but declined to comment further.

“We do not comment on leaked documents,” a Foreign Office spokesman said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the department’s policy.

Israel has never publicly acknowledged having nuclear weapons, but is widely considered to possess them. It has also not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Neil Wigan, head of the Foreign Office Arab, Israel and North Africa Group, told the tribunal that some in Israel already believed parts of the British government were biased against it, according to the Guardian. “If these comments were released into the public domain, this would seriously damage our bilateral relations with Israel,” Wigan wrote in a statement submitted to the tribunal, the newspaper said. “Unfortunately, there is perception already in Israel that parts of the FCO are prejudiced against the country,” his document said. The dossier, which was published on Tuesday, contained other handwritten comments critical of Britain’s allies.

Those comments were not censored by the government. Alongside a paragraph which said only Iraq had twice invaded its neighbors, an official wrote “Germany?” and “US: Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico.” Alongside a paragraph on the use of chemical weapons, an official had written: “Japan in China?”

The 2002 dossier was used as the basis for a document on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction that ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair used to win support for his backing of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Notes written on the draft appear intended to help revisions to the dossier. It is not known who wrote the comments critical of Israel and others.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report and the Israeli Embassy in London was not immediately available for comment.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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