Tony Blair responds to damning Chilcot Report into Iraq War
- Credit: PA
Former prime minister Tony Blair his insisted his decision to commit British forces to the invasion of Iraq was taken 'in good faith' but he would 'take full responsibility for any mistakes'.
Despite the criticism of him in the report by Sir John Chilcot, the former Prime Minister said: 'The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.
He added the report found 'clearly' that there was 'no falsification or improper use of Intelligence', 'no deception of Cabinet' and 'no secret commitment to war'.
Mr Blair added: 'The inquiry does not make a finding on the legal basis for military action but finds that the Attorney General had concluded there was such a lawful basis by 13th March 2003
'However the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States.
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'These are serious criticisms and they require serious answers. I will respond in detail to them later this afternoon. I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.
'I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.
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'Above all I will pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I will express my profound regret at the loss of life and the grief it has caused the families, and I will set out the lessons I believe future leaders can learn from my experience.'
But politicians have pointed the finger at Mr Blair this morning after the report's publication.
Senior Labour MP Frank Field, who voted for the war, said: 'What is now clear is the total incompetence of Tony Blair in launching a war and having no plan for the day after the Iraqi regime was overthrown.
'That gigantic political error resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, as well as 179 British soldiers.
'The Middle East has been thrown into chaos.
'Tony Blair maintains he has nothing to apologise for.
'If this record is not one which warrants an apology, it is difficult to think what is.'
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb tweeted: 'Damning verdict from Chilcot. If only Labour & Cons in Parliament had listened to Charles Kennedy rather than ridiculing and heckling him.'
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: 'Chilcot's report is damning for Blair, his cabinet and all those MPs who voted to take this country into an illegal and immoral war in Iraq. Iraqis continue to pay the price for an invasion that took place long before other options for a peaceful resolution were explored.
'This report confirms the series of serious failures that led to this disastrous war. We know for sure that government ministers, including Tony Blair, lied to the public about their reasons for going to war. He said he would support George Bush 'whatever' eight months before the war - and thousands of lives were lost because he stuck to that promise despite the evidence in front of him.'
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said Sir John Chilcot's report underlined everything the group had been saying for more than a decade.
She told the Press Association: 'We have been saying for years that Blair was disregarding the UN and was in this hideous relationship with George Bush.
'Chilcot should not be the end of the matter - it must be the beginning of legal and political action against Blair.'
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: 'This report confirms what we already knew - that the Blair government led Britain into a disastrous war on a drumbeat of exaggerated threats, guesswork dressed as intelligence, and windy rhetoric.
'The formidable challenges humanity is facing today require international co-operation more than ever before. We cannot have a healthy environment without peace, and we cannot have peace without a healthy environment. This is why Greenpeace will keep campaigning for both.'