Blair expresses regret for Iraq war victims

    By IANS,

    London : Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair Friday expressed his regret for the death of soldiers and civilians in Iraq during the US-led invasion of that country.

    Blair expressed his sorrow before the Chilcot Inquiry probing the then British government’s decision to support the 2003 invasion aimed at toppling Saddam Hussein, the then president of Iraq.

    Relatives of those killed in the conflict shouted out “It’s too late”, as an emotional Blair told of his sorrow at the bloodshed, while two female witnesses walked out and another turned her face away, the Telegraph reported.

    During the hearing, Blair admitted that he ignored legal advice that invading Iraq without a fresh UN resolution would not be legitimate because he considered the statements, by Lord Goldsmith, the then Attorney General, to be “provisional”.

    He also said that he would have been prepared to withhold British troops from taking part in the invasion had Lord Goldsmith not changed his mind about the legality or if the House of Commons had voted against the move.

    But he kept this from then US president George W. Bush in order that the Iraqis did not see a “chink of light” in the resolve of the coalition against them.

    Blair also claimed that the Cabinet was fully aware in the year before the war that regime change was likely, but was more interested in the “politics” of the issue.

    Following his first evidence session a year ago, he refused to speak of any regrets, saying that he only accepted responsibility for what happened following the invasion.

    With his voice shaking with emotion, Blair told Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman: “At the conclusion of the last hearing, you asked me whether I had any regrets. I took that as a question about the decision to go to war, and I answered that I took responsibility.”

    “That was taken as my meaning that I had no regrets about the loss of life and that was never my meaning or my intention.

    “I wanted to make it clear that, of course, I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves.”

    For most of the evidence session, the audience, a third of which was made up of relatives while the rest were selected via a public ballot, had listened in respectful silence.

    One weeping woman interrupted remarks from Blair in which he praised the British military, saying: “Stop trying to kill them then”.