- Britain went to war in Iraq on an 'assumption' that Saddam Hussein still possessed weapons of mass destruction, according to Jonathan Powell
Intelligence on Saddam's WMD was not the pivotal factor in Tony Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq, Mr Powell, the former chief of staff to Mr Blair, has told the Chilcot Inquiry.
Mr Powell said there was a long-standing "assumption" that Saddam had WMD because of the fact that he had used them in the past.
Without any concrete evidence that Saddam had destroyed his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons the Government remained "confident" that he still had them in 2003, he added.
"When our forces went in, we were absolutely amazed to discover there weren't any weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Mr Powell, who was former Prime Minister Mr Blair's closest aide throughout his premiership, was asked by panel member Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman at the London hearing whether he had been "concerned" that intelligence on Saddam's weapons stocks might not be up to date.
Mr Powell said: "We had an assumption, and we had that assumption because Saddam Hussein had lied about using WMD and he had lied about getting rid of them. We had bombed Iraq in 1998 on that basis and it would have taken some quite strong evidence to suggest he had got rid of them.
"We didn't really have any doubts about it and I don't think other people had any doubts about it.
"In September 2002 Hans Blix (the chief UN weapons inspector) told the Prime Minister Saddam Hussein hadn't met his obligations and 10,000 litres of anthrax were still unaccounted for.
"We were confident that he had weapons of mass destruction."
Mr Powell also insisted that Mr Blair had not given any undertaking to President Bush that Britain would go to war with the US when the two men met at the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002.
Last year the former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, has questioned whether the Mr Blair had "signed in blood" an agreement to go to war during a private meeting with Mr Bush.
But Mr Powell said: "I was at Crawford. Sir Christopher wasn't. He was at Waco, 30 miles away.
"There was no undertaking in blood to go to war in Iraq. There was no firm discussion to go to war, in fact the record which was sent to Sir Christopher said the president acknowledged that weapons inspectors should go in and we had to give Saddam the chance to comply."
The hearing continues.