Blair says Iraq war is right even if no WMD exists

10:22, December 13, 2009      

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he believed it would have been right to invade Iraq even if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) did not exist in Iraq, Britain's Sky News reported on Saturday.

Blair said the threat posed by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the wider region meant it was right to remove him from power.

"I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat," he said in an interview to be broadcast this weekend.

"I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge but it's incredibly difficult," former prime minister said. "I sympathize with the people who were against it for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end, I had to take the decision."

He added: "It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one, and because you'd had 12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject, he used chemical weapons on his own people - so this was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind."

Among a number of senior Labor party figures who were to be questioned in public, Blair will be called to give evidence to the Iraqi war inquiry early next year.

At a public hearing on Britain's role in the Iraq war, William Ehrman, who was director of international security at the Foreign Ministry, said ministers had been warned repeatedly that intelligence on Iraq's chemical and biological programs was "patchy."

The public hearing opened on Nov. 24 with the chairman of the inquiry commission promising a " fair and frank" investigation.

John Chilcot, the five-member commission's chair, said the inquiry would not be a "whitewash" and he would not shy away from being critical in the wide-ranging probe.

The first five weeks of public testimony was to come from senior officials and military officers. Issues such as equipment, personnel, the "key decisions taken and their rationale," and the legal basis for military action would be covered during the first phase of the public hearings. Private sessions and analysis would follow before a second round of public sessions in mid-2010.

The inquiry, which was announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June, will cover the entire eight-year period from the build-up to the war to the withdrawal of British troops. The final report will not be published until at least the end of 2010.

Source: Xinhua
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