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Iraq inquiry interviews Kurdish officials

LONDON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- First-hand interviews with Kurdish officials in Iraq will help an inquiry publish its findings on the Iraq war by early 2011, a British investigator said.

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 he returned from an early November meeting to the Kurdish north of Iraq as part of his investigation.

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"These meetings have provided very useful insights for the committee," he said in a statement. "Seeing the situation in Iraq at first hand has made a significant impact on the committee's understanding and awareness of the country at the center of our inquiry."

Chilcot during his visit met with influential Kurdish leaders, including Kurdish Prime Minster Barhem Saleh; Karim Sinjari, the Kurdish interior minister; and Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the governor of Erbil.

Members of the inquiry met also with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari during his recent trip to London.

In June, the inquiry called for international lawyers to weigh in on the legal arguments used by London to justify the military invasion.

The panel said it received 35 briefs on the matter as of Sept. 13. Chilcot said he had more evidence to gather before submitting his final report, however.

"Our intention remains to publish the report in early 2011," he said in his statement.

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