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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Miliband challenged over different reasons for Iraq war

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Mar 8, IRNA -- Foreign Secretary David Miliband was challenged Monday over different reasons given by British ministers for the 2003 Iraq war.

Giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry in London, Miliband was told that Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair and former foreign secretary Jack Straw had given “three rather different explanations” as to why Britain joined the US-led invasion.

Blair emphasised the need to impose regime change on Iraq, while Straw stressed the importance of dealing with Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction and Brown said he supported the war because he thought the will of the international community had to be enforced.

But when asked to explain why he voted for the war, Miliband insisted he did “not see the inconsistencies in the three sets of evidence” that were given to the inquiry during their question sessions.

He said that, before he voted for war, he read one of the reports from UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and believed it established a "prima facie" case for Iraq having WMD.

When giving evidence in February, Blair said the inquiry should consider what would have happened if the Iraq war had not taken place and if it was still led by Saddam Hussein, there could be an even greater threat. today than Iraq was in 2003.

Miliband said that although it was a very important question, it was "unanswerable" but believed “the authority of the UN would have been severely dented.”

“If, in the hypothetical case you are putting, we had marched to the top of the hill of pressure and marched down again without disarming Saddam Hussein, that would really have been quite damaging (to the ability of the UN to work together),” he said.

The foreign secretary also insisted that the opposition to the Iraq war among the international community was not damaging British diplomacy,

"People in the region will respect those who will see through what they say they favour, even though they disagree with it, and would say to me: 'You have sent a message that when you say something, you actually mean it'," he said.

He also told the inquiry panel that they should not learn the "wrong lesson" from the war that Britain turns its back and should leave international engagement to others “because if we do we will be much poorer as a result, in all senses of the world."

In an interview published ahead of his appearance at the inquiry, Miliband said it would be "stupid" to pretend that the Iraq war had been a total success.

The evidence session is the last before going into recess until after the general election in the UK, which is expected to be held in May.

Sir John Chilcot, chairing the panel, has said that the next few months would be spent examining tens of thousands of Government documents, many of them are highly classified, to see where the evidence joins together and where there are gaps.

“Only then can we decide the further evidence we need, the issues and points which need to be clarified, and the identity of witnesses we may wish to question in the next round of public hearings in the summer,” Chilcot said.

He also hinted that a number of sessions would be held in private “to get to the heart of some very sensitive issues” before the inquiry presents its report by the end of the year.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 1001526



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