One of the prime minister's closest advisers issued a private warning that it would be wrong for Tony Blair to claim Iraq's banned weapons programme showed Saddam Hussein presented an "imminent threat" to the west or even his Arab neighbours.
In a message that goes to the heart of the government's case for war, the Downing Street chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, raised serious doubts about the nature of September's Downing Street dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.
"We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat," Mr Powell wrote on September 17, a week before the document was finally published.
His remarks urging caution contrasted with the chilling language used by Mr Blair in a passionate speech in the Commons as he launched the dossier a week later.
He described Iraq's prog-ramme for weapons of mass destruction as "active, detailed, and growing ... It is up and running now".
Mr Powell's private concerns came in the form of an email which was copied to Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's director of communications, and Sir David Manning, Mr Blair's foreign policy adviser.
The fact the three closest men to the prime minister knew of this information strongly suggests Mr Blair would have been aware.
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