Iraq war 'matter of judgement, not deceit,' Blair insists
IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency
London, Jan 29, IRNA -- Former prime minister Tony Blair Friday insisted that the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was a “matter of judgement” not deceit, as critics of the war have claimed.
Robustly defending his controversial decision to lead Britain into the war, Blair also claimed that he believed "beyond doubt" Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction, saying that intelligence, which later turned out to be wrong, was “strong.”
After 9/11 he was not prepared to take any risks and in the end, it’s a matter of judgement, he said at the Iraq inquiry in London. “This is not about a lie, or a deceit, or a conspiracy or a deception,” he insisted.
Hundreds of protesters outside the venue disagreed, calling Blair “a liar” who deliberately misled the country and demanding that he be prosecuted for war crimes.
“It's a decision .... I believed, and in the end so did the cabinet and so did parliament, incidentally, that it wasn't right to run that risk,” he told the inquiry. “My judgment is that you don't take any risks,” he said suggesting he would do the same again.
Blair also admitted that he disagreed with other British officials, including former British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who said the weapons inspectors should have been given more time.
It would have been impractical for British and American troops to remain on the border of Iraq for months at the time, he said.
He also suggested that the view of former UN arms inspector Hans Blix was a “little different” now than at the time.
His resolute tone was in contrast to many of the other witnesses to have given evidence to the inquiry, including those who have defended the war but expressed reservations.
The former premier continued to deny that he struck a secret deal with then US President George Bush to invade Iraq at a private meeting a year before the 2003 war.
Although no one else was at the meeting at Bush’s Crawford ranch in April 2002, Blair insisted that he had been "open" about what had been discussed -that Saddam Hussein had to be dealt with and "the method of doing that is open".
"We have to deal with his WMD and if that means regime change so be it," he said during the first phase of giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry.
Amongst other contentious issues, Blair was also challenged about the dubious legality of the war and the lack of military planning that led to virtual civil war in Iraq.
End News / IRNA / News Code 926437
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