Blair tries to keep voters focused on domestic issues, but Iraq won't go away

The British government insisted Thursday that Prime Minister Tony Blair did not lie about the legal case for war in Iraq, while the opposition Conservative Party said a leaked document proves he did.

The leaked memo containing advice on the legality of the war from Attorney General Lord Goldsmith again thrust the ferocious debate about the U.S.-led invasion and Blair's integrity to the forefront of the election campaign a week before Britain votes.

Conservatives, who are now openly branding Blair as a liar, contrasted the doubts expressed in Goldsmith's memo of March 7, 2003, with Blair's unequivocal statement 10 days later that the war was legal. A key issue is Goldsmith's expressed doubts about whether another U.N. Security Council resolution was required to authorize military action.

"Here is another example of the prime minister saying one thing and finding out afterwards that it isn't true," said Michael Ancram, the Conservatives' deputy chairman.

"What he said about the attorney general's opinion was that it was very clear, and that the attorney general had not changed his mind. The only thing that is very clear is that the attorney general did change his mind," Ancram said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

But Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Goldsmith "never changed his mind."

"It is clear from the letter that has now been leaked that (it) stands up our argument that as of the 7th of March the attorney general was indeed saying that military action without a second resolution would be justified in certain circumstances - which then happened," Straw told the BBC.

Both sides agreed that Britain should have gone to war, and that the U.S.-led invasion was justified by Saddam Hussein's violations of United Nations resolutions.

JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

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