05/03/2010

Brown Appears Before Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown has defended the 2003 invasion of Iraq as the "right" thing to do.

The Prime Minister, appearing before an inquiry into the war today, said Tony Blair did not keep him in the dark about plans.

Mr Brown was Chancellor when the invasion was agreed.

Today he said it was clear Iraq "had to be dealt with". Mr Brown said he based his view on briefing papers and intelligence gathering.

He said Iraq had been flouting international law and had breached UN sanctions.

Mr Brown said it was important democratic nations worked together in challenging "rouge states".

He suggested the fear was the "new world order we were trying to create would be put at risk".

The Prime Minister's evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry comes just weeks ahead of the UK General Election, expected to take place in May.

Mr Brown conceded lessons were learned from the consequences of the invasion.

"It was one of my regrets that I wasn't able to be more successful in pushing the Americans on this issue - that the planning for reconstruction was essential, just the same as planning for the war," he said.

"There will be other states, rogue states, that need to change and we need to ensure civilian support as well as military support to do what's necessary when a broken state has to be rebuilt."

Mr Brown said briefings from intelligence personnel between 2002 and 2003 lead him to believe Saddam Hussein posed a threat.

"Right up to the last minute, right up to the last weekend, I think many of us were hopeful that the diplomatic route would succeed," he stressed.

The then chancellor said he knew of no occasion where military commanders' requests for equipment was refused.

"At any point, commanders were able to ask for equipment that they needed and I know of no occasion when they were turned down," he told the panel.

He described the Government's balancing of budgets at the time as "manageable".

Mr Brown paid tribute to former boss Mr Blair's handling of the conflict and the events leading up to the invasion.

"Everything Mr Blair did he did properly and I was kept fully informed about the information that I needed to make my decisions."

Regarding talks between the then prime minister and US President George W Bush, Mr Brown said: "My role in this was not to interfere in what were very important diplomatic negotiations."

The inquiry continues.

(PR/BMcC)

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23 February 2010
Brown Iraq Inquiry Date Set
The Prime Minister will give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry next Friday, it has been confirmed. Gordon Brown's appearance on 5 March will be followed by International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander. Foreign Secretary David Miliband will face questions from the panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot on 8 March.