The Latest: Blair takes responsibility for Iraq war mistakes


LONDON >> The Latest on Britain's inquiry into its role in the Iraq war (all times local):

12:35 p.m.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he will take full responsibility for any mistakes amid the publication of the Chilcot report on British involvement in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.

Blair nonetheless underscored that the report released Wednesday supported positions that he has long held, including that he made no secret commitment to go to war at a meeting with former U.S. President George Bush in April 2002 in Texas.

Blair highlights there was no "falsification of intelligence," though the inquiry found the threat posed by Iraq's weapons "were presented with a certainty that was not justified."

Blair repeated his contention that it was "better to remove Saddam Hussein" than allow the Iraqi leader to stay in power. He says "I do not believe this (Saddam's removal) is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world."

12:10 p.m.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he hopes the Chilcot report looking into British involvement in the Iraq War lays to rest allegations that he used lies or deceit as a pretense to invade Iraq.

Blair issued a statement Wednesday right after the report was released, saying that he tried to do the right thing by joining the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The country was wracked by violence and chaos for years after that.

Blair says "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."

Blair says while the Chilcot inquiry does not make a finding on the legal basis for British military action in Iraq, it found that the attorney general concluded there was a lawful basis by March 13, 2003.


12:05 p.m.

The families of U.K. troops slain in the Iraq conflict say Britain should use the Chilcot report to make sure the country never makes such grave mistakes again.

In a statement Wednesday, a group of families who had access to the report's executive summary say that "never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end."

The sister of one slain serviceman, Sarah O'Connor, says the report confirms there is one "terrorist" that the world needs to know about "and that is (ex-Prime Minister) Tony Blair."

The military families have long pushed for the inquiry and for those responsible for British involvement in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to be held to account.


11:55 a.m.

The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry says former Prime Minister Tony Blair overestimated his ability to influence decisions made by the Americans.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot says Blair put too much faith in being able to shape U.S. policy in the months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein's government.

Blair had a good relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush and they worked together closely during the run-up to the military intervention in Iraq.

The Chilcot inquiry, which took seven years to produce, is publishing detailed notes from Blair to Bush describing strategic plans for the invasion.


11:40 a.m.

The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry says Britain's 2003-2009 deployment to Iraq ended "a long way from success."

Retired civil servant John Chilcot, in a report that took seven years to produce, says Britain had to make a "humiliating" deal with militias in Iraq that had been targeting British forces as a best possible way to lessen the violence that erupted in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

He said Wednesday that the simultaneous war effort in Afghanistan had a material effect on British forces in Iraq, citing as an example a shortage of helicopters and surveillance equipment.

Chilcot said decisions made were not fully implemented and that the Ministry of Defense had been slow to respond to the threat posed by improvised explosive devices in Iraq.


11:30 a.m.

The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry says the risks of intervening in Iraq should have been known in advance.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot says British officials should have known the risks of internal strife in Iraq, the danger of increased al-Qaida activity and the possibility of general instability inside the country.

Chilcot said the known risks should have been addressed further by British political and military elites and that the failures continued to have an effect after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He said hindsight was not needed and that careful planning would have taken these factors into account.

He also noted that Britain's deployment in Iraq ended "a long way from success."


11:25 a.m.

The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry has said his inquiry will not make a finding on whether the invasion of Iraq was legally justified.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot says there were serious shortcomings in the planning and execution of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and poor preparation for the aftermath, which saw Saddam Hussein's government overthrown and the country descend into chaos.

Chilcot said, however, that "the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for U.K. military action were far from satisfactory."

His report is broadly damning of British political, military and intelligence planning. He did not find that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government had knowingly misled the public and Parliament about the situation in Iraq.


11:10 a.m.

The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry has released a damning verdict on a conflict he says was mounted on flawed intelligence, executed with "wholly inadequate" planning.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot says "the U.K. chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort."

He says then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's government presented an assessment of the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's weapons with "certainty that was not justified," and military planning for the war and its aftermath were not up to the task.

Chilcot oversaw an inquiry that has taken seven years to complete, heard from 150 witnesses and analyzed 150,000 documents.


8 a.m.

Anti-war activists and relatives of some dead British troops hope the Chilcot report will find the Iraq war illegal, opening the way for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to be prosecuted for war crimes.

Sarah O'Connor, whose brother, Sgt. Bob O'Connor, died in a plane crash in Iraq in 2005, says "that man has been the puppet master, and it's about time that we came along and we cut his strings."

John Chilcot, a retired civil servant, has stressed that his inquiry is not a court of law, and the International Criminal Court has said that the "decision by the U.K. to go to war in Iraq falls outside the court's jurisdiction."

Chilcot said he wanted the report to be "a really reliable account of all that happened that really matters" over Iraq, with lessons for the future.

Peter Brierley, whose son Lance Cpl. Shaun Brierley was killed in 2003, said he hoped the report "comes somewhere close to what I expect, which is to say that Tony Blair did go to war illegally."


6:30 a.m.

The official inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War is releasing its findings Wednesday, more than seven years after hearings began and 13 years on from the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Retired civil servant John Chilcot is due to publish his 2.6-million-word report on a divisive conflict that — by the time British combat forces left in 2009 — had killed 179 British troops, almost 4,500 American personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.

Iraq descended into sectarian strife after the occupiers dismantled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's government and military apparatus, unleashing chaos that helped give rise to the Islamic State group.

The war has overshadowed the legacy of Britain's then-leader, Prime Minister Tony Blair. His government has been accused of exaggerating intelligence about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction in order to build support for invasion.

Blair — who declined to comment on the report before publication — has always said his government did not invent or distort intelligence.


Associated Press Writer Jonathan Shenfield contributed to this story.


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