LONDON, July 19 (KUNA) -- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had three conversations with the media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the nine days before the start of the Iraq war, the UK Government has disclosed.
Details of the former Prime Minister's contacts with Murdoch have been released under the Freedom of Information Act, The Independent newspaper said Thursday.
After trying to block disclosure for four years, the Government backed down in a surprise change of heart the day after Blair resigned last month.
Requests for information under the Act were submitted by the opposition Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury and The Independent newspaper.
An appeal was pending and evidence was about to be served in a case before an Information Tribunal.
The Cabinet Office said there were six telephone discussions between Blair and Murdoch in 20 months, all at crucial moments of his premiership.
The subject of their calls was not revealed.
In 2003, Blair phoned the owner of The Times and The Sun newspapers on 11 and 13 March, and on 19 March, the day before Britain and the United States invaded Iraq.
The war was strongly supported by Murdoch-owned newspapers around the world.
The day after two of the calls, The Sun launched vitriolic attacks on the French President Jacques Chirac.
The British Government quoted him as saying he would "never" support military action against Saddam Hussein, a claim hotly disputed by France.
Blair and Murdoch spoke again on 29 January 2004, the day after publication of the Hutton report into the death of the British scientist Dr David Kelly.
Their next conversation was on 25 April 2004, just after Blair bowed to pressure led by The Sun for him to promise a referendum on the proposed EU constitution. They also spoke on 3 October that year, after Blair said he would not fight a fourth General Election. (end) he.rk KUNA 191216 Jul 07NNNN