UK's Iraq inquiry to ask Blair to testify
London, July 31, 2009
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called to testify to a panel investigating Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, the head of the inquiry said, promising a thorough and independent probe.
Former civil servant John Chilcot said the inquiry, ordered by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would look at the run-up to the 2003 US-led invasion, the war and its aftermath.
The five-member panel, which also includes eminent historian Martin Gilbert, will examine the decisions taken by the British government and look at the legality of the war.
Chilcot said the witnesses would include Blair and "other senior figures involved in decision-taking" although he would not say if Brown, who took over from Blair as prime minister two years ago, would be called to testify.
Asked how the inquiry would avoid suspicions it was a "whitewash", Chilcot said the panel would do the job "as thoroughly, as fairly, as independently as we can".
He said the inquiry could single out officials for blame. "If we find that people fell short in their duty, made mistakes (or) acted wrongly, we shall most certainly say so and say so clearly," he told a news conference.
A spokesman for Blair said he would cooperate fully with whatever format Chilcot set for the inquiry.
Chilcot said the inquiry would last until late next year, at the earliest. That means that its conclusions, which could be politically damaging to the Labour government, will not be published before a national election due by next June. - Reuters