27/11/2009

'Questionable Legitimacy' Of Iraq

The American and UK invasion of Iraq was of "questionable legitimacy", the inquiry into the war heard today.

Former UK ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock conceded, however, the illegality is unlikely to ever be proved.

Appearing before the inquiry panel, headed by Sir John Chilcot, Sir Jeremy said the invasion had little support among UN members and the wider British public.

He suggested the US and UK administrations had "established" the war's legality, given it has never been challenged.

The Iraq Inquiry is currently establishing the events that led to the 2003 invasion of the region and subsequent toppling of regime leader Saddam Hussein.

Sir Jeremy sat in the UN while the UK government attempted to push through a second resolution to sanction action against Iraq.

Both France and Russia vetoed the bill, giving rise to the accusation the war was illegal.

But according to Sir Jeremy, the existing resolution provided "sufficient legal cover".

This was dependent on Iraq being in breach of its disarmament obligations.

The legal merits of the invasion were unlikely to ever be "final and conclusive", Sir Jeremy said.

But he added: "If you do something internationally that the majority of UN member states think is wrong, illegitimate or politically unjustifiable, you are taking a risk in my view.

"There was a failure to establish legitimacy although I think we successfully established legality in the UN....to the degree, at least, that we were never challenged in the UN or International Court of Justice for those actions."

He said the "whole saga" over UK policy, was influenced by the belief that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction.

Sir Jeremy suggested that throughout the UN situation the UK government believed confronting Iraq was in the national interest.

The inquiry continues.

(PR/KMcA)

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