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London war inquiry may head to Iraq

LONDON, July 30 (UPI) -- Members of an inquiry into the British role in the Iraq war aim to visit Baghdad to assess the consequences of the war, the inquiry chair said Friday.

London is examining its role in the Iraq war from the planning stages to the departure of British forces in 2009. Inquiry director John Chilcot said in his closing statement marking one year since the inquiry began that he would like to lead a team to Iraq to examine the war first hand.

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"The inquiry also hopes to visit Iraq," he said in his written statement. "We want to see for ourselves the consequences of U.K. involvement, to hear Iraqi perspectives and to understand the prospects for Iraq today."

Chilcot said his inquiry has interviewed more than 140 witnesses in public and private hearings since the investigation began last year.

In testimony this week, Hans Blix, who led the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003, said the decision to invade Iraq was illegal.

Blix told the inquiry this week that "in no case did we find a weapon of mass destruction" during inspections in Iraq.

U.S. President George W. Bush led the push to use military force to disarm Iraq. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the inquiry in 2009 that if disarming Iraq led to the removal of Saddam Hussein from power, then "so be it."

Chilcot said the committee would examine past testimony to determine if there were any conflicts and hold further hearings later this year if necessary.

A report on the findings of the war inquiry was expected near the end of the year, he added.

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