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U.S. officials probed in Iraq war inquiry

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- Committee members of a London inquiry into the Iraq war arrived Tuesday in the United States to meet in secret with current and former U.S. officials.

London is examining its role in the Iraq war from the planning stages shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to the withdrawal of British forces in 2009.

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The inquiry grilled Prime Minister Gordon Brown during its last London session in March. The panel traveled to Paris in early March to hold talks with current and former French government and military officials.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair told the inquiry in January that Britain was forced to join the U.S. effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein without U.N. consent because the French government refused to back a second resolution.

The inquiry committee said Tuesday it would meet privately with "a number of people" during its five-day visit to Washington and Boston.

"As the talks are being held on a private basis, the identities of the people the Inquiry committee are seeing and the location of meetings will not be revealed in advance," the inquiry said in a statement.

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John Chilcot, the head of the London inquiry, said in January he would consider calling on U.S. servicemen and members of the administration George W. Bush during his investigation.

"We cannot take formal evidence as such from foreign nationals, but we can of course have discussions with them," said Chilcot.

U.S. and British forces led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

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