Campbell: Murdoch phoned Blair on Iraq

June 16, 2012 at 12:56 AM
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LONDON, June 16 (UPI) -- Rupert Murdoch called British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003 in an effort to get him to commit to the Iraq invasion, Blair's former press secretary says.

In the final volume of his diaries, Alastair Campbell suggested Murdoch was working with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, The Guardian reported Friday. The call was made a week before the parliamentary vote on sending British forces to Iraq.

"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," Campbell wrote on March 11, 2003, adding on March 12, "TB felt the Murdoch call was odd, not very clever."

Murdoch, in an appearance before the Leveson Commission, which is investigating the media, denied he had ever pressured prime ministers. Sir John Major, Blair's predecessor as prime minister, appeared before the panel Tuesday and said Murdoch threatened to deny the Conservatives his support in the 1997 election unless Major changed his policy on Europe.

News Corp., Murdoch's company, released a statement denying Campbell's charge: "It is complete rubbish to suggest that Rupert Murdoch lobbied Mr. Blair over the Iraq war on behalf of the U.S. Republicans. Furthermore, there isn't even any evidence in Alastair Campbell's diaries to support such a ridiculous claim."

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