Tony Blair was offered final chance to avoid Iraq invasion, Chilcot inquiry told

Friday, January 21, 2011

LONDON - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was given a final chance to opt out of the Iraq invasion by his foreign secretary Jack Straw, according to documents lodged with the Chilcot Inquiry.

The Guardian quotes a British official as saying that the “very personal” meeting between Blair and Straw, was not officially recorded.

“The point the foreign secretary was making, in my view, was that this was the final opportunity to decide on a different track - advising the prime minister that he still had a chance to avoid it if he wanted to … The argument he was making was more in terms of, ‘If you want to avoid your own resignation, prime minister, you still have an opportunity and here it is. You have a way out and why don’t you take it?’” the note presented to the Chilcot Inquiry reads.

“It was offering the prime minister a way out if he wanted it …The thing that I was absolutely struck by privately was the prime minister’s response, the speed of it and the absolute insistence of it, and the fact that he had got his arguments all marshalled and all laid out,” the official said.

The Chilcot inquiry was announced by Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, in June 2009 after the remnants of the British military presence finally left Basra amid continuing controversy over the country’s role in the Iraq invasion.

Appearing before the inquiry today, Blair did not deny the role of cabinet colleagues in deciding that Britain should help the US in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He further repeated the evidence he gave to the inquiry when he appeared before it in open session exactly a year ago, that the international situation changed fundamentally after the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

The inquiry had summoned Blair back after hearing discrepancies in earlier evidence casting doubt over his public remarks about when, and in what circumstances, Britain would go to war, and what he was told by the government’s chief law officer about the legality of an invasion. (ANI)

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