- American officials lied to British ministers over the
use of "internationally reviled" napalm-type firebombs in Iraq.
- Yesterday's disclosure led to calls by MPs for a full
statement to the Commons and opened ministers to allegations that they
held back the facts until after the general election.
- Despite persistent rumours of injuries among Iraqis consistent
with the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm, Adam Ingram, the Defence
minister, assured Labour MPs in January that US forces had not used a new
generation of incendiary weapons, codenamed MK77, in Iraq.
- But Mr Ingram admitted to the Labour MP Harry Cohen in
a private letter obtained by The Independent that he had inadvertently
misled Parliament because he had been misinformed by the US. "The
US confirmed to my officials that they had not used MK77s in Iraq at any
time and this was the basis of my response to you," he told Mr Cohen.
"I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the
case and must now correct the position."
- Mr Ingram said 30 MK77 firebombs were used by the 1st
Marine Expeditionary Force in the invasion of Iraq between 31 March and
2 April 2003. They were used against military targets "away from civilian
targets", he said. This avoids breaching the 1980 Convention on Certain
Conventional Weapons (CCW), which permits their use only against military
- Britain, which has no stockpiles of the weapons, ratified
the convention, but the US did not.
- The confirmation that US officials misled British ministers
led to new questions last night about the value of the latest assurances
by the US. Mr Cohen said there were rumours that the firebombs were used
in the US assault on the insurgent stronghold in Fallujah last year, claims
denied by the US. He is tabling more questions seeking assurances that
the weapons were not used against civilians.
- Mr Ingram did not explain why the US officials had misled
him, but the US and British governments were accused of a cover-up. The
Iraq Analysis Group, which campaigned against the war, said the US authorities
only admitted the use of the weapons after the evidence from reporters
had become irrefutable.
- Mike Lewis, a spokesman for the group, said: "The
US has used internationally reviled weapons that the UK refuses to use,
and has then apparently lied to UK officials, showing how little weight
the UK carries in influencing American policy."
- He added: "Evidence that Mr Ingram had given false
information to Parliament was publicly available months ago. He has waited
until after the election to admit to it - a clear sign of the Government's
embarrassment that they are doing nothing to restrain their own coalition
partner in Iraq."
- The US State Department website admitted in the run-up
to the election that US forces had used MK77s in Iraq. Protests were made
by MPs, but it was only this week that Mr Ingram confirmed the reports
- Mike Moore, the Liberal Democrat defence spokes-man,
said: "It is very serious that this type of weapon was used in Iraq,
but this shows the US has not been completely open with the UK. We are
supposed to have a special relationship.
- "It has also taken two months for the minister to
clear this up. This is welcome candour, but it will raise fresh questions
about how open the Government wished to be... before the election."
- The MK77 bombs, an evolution of the napalm used in Vietnam
and Korea, carry kerosene-based jet fuel and polystyrene so that, like
napalm, the gel sticks to structures and to its victims. The bombs lack
stabilising fins, making them far from precise.
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.