Tony Blair to give public evidence on Iraq war

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 7:01 PM

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be publicly questioned about the Iraq war during Britain's long-awaited inquiry into mistakes made before and during the conflict, the inquiry chairman said Friday.

Chairman John Chilcott said Blair and other senior politicians will be questioned early next year on their role and decisions over the war.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced in June that he would hold an inquiry into the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He initially had said the hearings would be private, but changed his stance after bereaved families and anti-war campaigners said a private inquiry would command little confidence.

Chilcott, a former civil servant, said the first round of hearings will start Nov. 24 and last until February 2010. He said senior officials and military officers would give evidence first, and politicians including Blair would be questioned from January. The full list of witnesses called to give evidence will be announced later this month.

Chilcott said there would be some private sessions next year to deal with sensitive information. Another later public round of hearings will take place after Britain's general election, which has to take place by June 2010.

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Britain's six-year operation in Iraq, which ended in April, cost the lives of 179 service personnel. At the height of combat operations in March and April 2003, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq.

The Iraq war was deeply unpopular in Britain, prompting some of the country's largest ever protest marches _ including a rally which drew an estimated 2 million demonstrators to central London. Blair, who was prime minister at the time, was badly tarnished by the conflict, but won a 2005 national election with a reduced majority.