Blair to appear in public at Iraq inquiry amid critics on British probe

Former British PM Blair will give his evidence to the Iraq inquiry in public, the head of the probe said amid critics on failure to ask tough on witnesses.

Blair to appear in public at Iraq inquiry amid critics on British probe

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will give his evidence to the Iraq inquiry in public, the head of the probe said on Thursday amid critics on failure to ask tough on witnesses.

John Chilcot, head of the five-member team examining Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion without evident of mass destruction weapons, said the 38 senior civil servants and military figures who had so far appeared had been "open and candid".

As the inquiry closed for a Christmas break, Chilcot hit back at critics who have said they had failed to ask tough, probing questions and had been too easy on some of those involved in controversial decisions made before the war.

"We have not been trying to ambush witnesses or score points. This is a serious inquiry," he said.

"We are not here to provide public sport or entertainment. In the hearings so far, a huge amount of valuable and illuminating evidence has been uncovered."

Among the revelations made so far was the disclosure that Britain had received intelligence in the days before the U.S.-led invasion that Iraq had dismantled its chemical weapons. An official dossier to justify war in September 2002 said Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction (WMD) within 45 minutes. No such weapons were found.

Other witnesses have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the invasion while others have criticised a lack of preparation for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

The disclosures have added to the already great interest in Blair's appearance before the inquiry due early next year

Last week, Blair tried to legitimate Iraq war in a BBC interview saying that it was "right" to oust Saddam even though he had no WMD.

"I would still have thought it right to remove him," Blair said when asked if he would have joined the invasion if he'd known Saddam had no such weapons.

"Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat."

There had been suggestions in the media that much of Blair's testimony would be given in secret, but Chilcot said this would not be the case.

"I would like to be absolutely clear about this -- evidence sessions with key decision-makers, including the former Prime Minister, will be in public. They will be openly questioned about the big issues that they were involved in," he said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 18 Aralık 2009, 00:18
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