Tony Blair yesterday appealed for an end to attacks on his "character and integrity" as the Tories and the Liberal Democrats sought to keep the issue of trust in the premier at the heart of the election campaign.

As Mr Blair faced fresh claims over the war in Iraq, he said: "Let's stop having this argument about whether it's my character or my integrity that's at issue here and understand the decision had to be taken." The Prime Minister added: "I have no disrespect for people who disagreed with me over Iraq.

"I simply ask them to conduct the debate on the terms of whether the judgment was right or not, rather than attacks on my conduct and integrity."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy yesterday called for a public inquiry into the Iraq conflict, and raised the prospect of British support for a military strike against Iran.

Tory leader Michael Howard defended his decision to say on Sunday that Mr Blair "lied" over the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.

The new row followed a report that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had warned the Government the war could be illegal, before telling the Cabinet on March 17 2003 that an attack on Saddam Hussein would definitely be lawful.