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British involvement in Iraq under inquiry

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LONDON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The inquiry into Britain's decision to enter the Iraq war will be thorough and will not stint on criticism that is warranted, the lead investigator said.

John Chilcot opened the Iraq Inquiry by pledging the five-member panel would "get to the heart of what happened" before and during Britain's involvement in Iraq and approach its mission in "thorough, rigorous, fair and frank" manner, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown set up the inquiry in response to demands for an independent investigation into the reasons for going to war.

The panel already met with families of military personnel killed in Iraq, and with Iraq veterans.

"The Iraq inquiry was set up to identify the lessons that should be learned from (Britain's) involvement in Iraq to help future governments who may face similar situations," Chilcot said, the newspaper reported.

"No one is on trial. We cannot determine guilt or innocence. Only a court can do that," he said. "But I make a commitment here that once we get to our final report, we will not shy away from making criticisms where they are warranted."

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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took Britain to war in Iraq in 2003, will be among witnesses to testify, but he wasn't expected to be heard until next year, the Telegraph reported. A key question the inquiry will try to answer is whether Blair misled Parliament about the threat posed former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein.

The inquiry is expected to hear testimony for at least six months before Chilcot publishes his report at the end of 2010 or early 2011.

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