UK Iraq war inquiry chair defends decision to move slowly

AP News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2015 12:39 PM

LONDON (AP) — The chair of Britain's inquiry into the Iraq war defended the time spent on the investigation Wednesday, arguing that while he understands the anguish of bereaved family members, being fair to decision makers was critical to the process.

John Chilcot's remarks came amid rising pressure and threats of lawsuits from families of slain British soldiers to release the findings.

The inquiry into decisions and mistakes in Britain's planning and execution of the war began in 2009, but Chilcot made no apology for being methodical.

"It is critically important that the report should be fair to all who participated in the conflict and to those who bore the responsibility of taking decisions," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been among the political leaders arguing that the panel has had enough time and that it should wrap up its work.

Chilcot countered Wednesday that in scope and length, the inquiry's mandate has had no precedent, with 130 sessions of witness evidence and more than 150,000 documents received.

Chilcot has yet to give a timetable for the conclusion of the report, which has been held up partly by a process giving those criticized a chance to respond.

"Given the scale of the task of assembling a reliable account of a nine-year period and drawing conclusions on a wide range of issues, it became apparent as the work proceeded that the report would have to be very long and would take a considerable time to produce," he said.

Families of slain soldiers were disappointed.

Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon, 19, was killed in a 2004 bombing, wondered whether Chilcot could really understand.

"Chilcot says he understands the anguish of the families," she said. "But he's not the one going to bed and having nightmares, dreaming about it every night."