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Blair almost had plane shot down

Tony Blair has revealed in his newly published memoirs that he came close to ordering the RAF to shoot down a passenger plane over London.

The former prime minister described how fighter jets were scrambled when the aircraft lost contact with air traffic control as it approached the capital.

Mr Blair was given emergency powers to authorise the military to bring down planes after September 11 2001 when terrorists crashed airliners into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC.

The provision was only used once, when he was spending the weekend at Chequers, the British prime minister's Buckinghamshire country retreat.

Mr Blair recalled in his book: "A passenger jet had been out of contact for some time, and was heading over London.

"I had the senior RAF commander authorised to get my decision. The fighter jet was airborne.

"For several anxious minutes we talked, trying desperately to get an instinct as to whether this was threat or mishap. The deadline came. I decided we should hold back.

"Moments later the plane regained contact. It had been a technical error. I needed to sit down and thank God for that one!"

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