Brown slamed over military spending as UK Iraq War inquiry
Conservatives attacked the government's record on military spending as the fall-out from an inquiry into the Iraq War threatened to damage the ruling party.
Britain's opposition Conservatives attacked the government's record on military spending on Tuesday as the fall-out from an inquiry into the Iraq War threatened to damage the ruling Labour Party.
Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who led an abortive party revolt against Prime Minister Gordon Brown this month, told the inquiry that he did not get all the funding he requested in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Brown was finance minister for a decade until 2007 and has also faced criticism that he has failed to equip British troops in Afghanistan properly.
He will not appear before the inquiry until after a general election due by June. His spokeswoman defended his actions.
"The prime minister has made it very clear that not only has defence spending increased quite considerably over recent years but also all operational requirements that have been requested by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) have been met," a spokeswoman for the prime minister said.
The Conservatives, favourites to win the election after 13 years in the political wilderness, accused Brown of short-changing the armed forces and said this had hampered the ocupation in Afghanistan.
"We could have had more helicopters in Afghanistan today if the Treasury had not ignored requests from military commanders," opposition defence spokesman Liam Fox said.
"This has been a litany of bad decisions and represents a collective failure of government where the ultimate victims were the servicemen and women of the armed forces," he added.
Two hundred and forty seven British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and the rising death toll will be an issue in the election campaign.
Brown set up inquiry
Brown set up the Iraq inquiry last year to draw lessons from the conflict following the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. Some Labour figures say it risks backfiring by bringing a divisive issue back into the public arena.
Many Labour supporters remain angry with former Prime Minister Tony Blair for leading the country into a war and an illegal occupation in which 179 British soldiers were killed.
Letters released on Tuesday showed that the government's top legal officer, who gave the green light for the Iraq war in 2003, had voiced doubts about the justification for an attack the previous year.
The inquiry released the text of letters exchanged by former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith and Hoon in 2002.
"I think you should know that I see considerable difficulties in being satisfied that military action would be justified on the basis of self-defence," Goldsmith wrote in a letter dated March 28, 2002.
"In particular I am not aware of the existence of material indicating the existence of an imminent threat from Iraq of the sort which would justify military action without support of a Security Council Chapter VII authorisation," he claimed.
Goldsmith ultimately told the cabinet in March 2003 that the war was legal without a new United Nations resoution. The U.S.-led invasion went ahead three days later.
Blair will appear before the inquiry on Jan. 29, two days after Goldsmith.
Reuters Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2010, 08:25