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According to Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to Washington, who was at the dinner when Blair became the first foreign leader to visit America after 11 September, Blair told Bush he should not get distracted from the war on terror's initial goal - dealing with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Bush, claims Meyer, replied by saying: 'I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.' Regime change was already US policy.
Details of this extraordinary conversation will be published this week in a 25,000-word article on the path to war with Iraq in the May issue of the American magazine Vanity Fair.
The French government offered a surprise compromise to the US president, George Bush, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, according to a detailed investigation published in Vanity Fair this week.
The report undermines the public perception of France standing resolutely against the US and Britain in the United Nations security council as the two countries tried to win a second resolution in support of war.
Instead, the two said that the first resolution on Iraq, 1441, passed the previous year, provided enough legal cover for war and that France would keep quiet if the US went to war on that basis.
The deal would suit the French by maintaining its "good cop" status in the Arab world and safeguarding Franco-US relations.