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LONDON: Rupert Murdoch took part in an “over-crude” attempt by US Republicans to push Tony Blair into action before the invasion of Iraq, the former British prime minister’s ex-media chief claimed Saturday.
Alastair Campbell said the News Corporation media baron warned Blair in a phone call of the dangers in delaying Britain signing up to the 2003 invasion.
The claim came in “The Burden of Power: Countdown to Iraq” — the final volumes of Campbell’s diaries from his years at Blair’s side, which are being serialised in The Guardian newspaper.
Campbell suggested Murdoch made moves to help Republicans the week before the vote in the British parliament’s lower House of Commons on deploying troops to Iraq, which was passed.
On March 11, 2003, Campbell wrote that Blair “took a call from Murdoch who was pressing on timings, saying how News International would support us, etc.
“Both TB and I felt it was prompted by Washington, and another example of their over-crude diplomacy. Murdoch was pushing all the Republican buttons, how the longer we waited the harder it got.”
The following day he added: “TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever.”
Speaking to The Guardian, Campbell said Murdoch’s intervention came “out of the blue”.
“On one level (Murdoch) was trying to be supportive, saying I know this is a very difficult place, my papers are going to support you on this. Fine.
“But I think Tony did feel that there was something a bit crude about it. It was another very right-wing voice saying to him: ’look, isn’t it about time you got on with this?’
“I think, as I recall Tony saying, he didn’t think it was terribly clever.” -- AFP