Britain's Brown says Iraq war was 'right'

Baghdads failure to comply with UN resolutions justified action

Britain's Brown says Iraq war was 'right'

A demonstrator protests as Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives evidence to the Iraq Inquiry at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London on Friday. REUTERSBrown, appearing just weeks before an election to discuss a war that still rankles with many Britons, said Iraq’s failure to comply with United Nations resolutions justified war.
But he distanced himself from concerns about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Brown is the most prominent figure to give evidence before the five-person panel since his predecessor Tony Blair made a highly publicised appearance in January.

Expressing sorrow
While Blair was criticised for saying he had no regrets about the war, Brown’s opening statement expressed sorrow for the deaths of both British servicemen and Iraqi civilians.
“I believe this is the gravest decision of all, to make a decision to go to war. I believe we made the right decision for the right reasons,” Brown told the inquiry.

While a far less vocal advocate of the war than Blair, critics have accused Brown, who was finance minister at the time of the 2003 US-led invasion, of failing to provide enough funding for military chiefs to equip troops properly.

Some relatives of the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq say this failure led to unnecessary deaths and are demanding that the inquiry team, headed by former civil servant John Chilcot, press Brown for answers on the issue.

The issue of support for Britain’s military remains contentious because 10,000 troops are fighting in Afghanistan and face a similar threat from insurgents. There was no time... when the Treasury said this is a better military option because it’s cheaper or less costly,” Brown told the inquiry.

Poll-wary
The invasion of Iraq has been one of the most damaging episodes during the Labour Party’s 13 years in power, provoking internal divisions and huge public protests. With an election due by June 3 and polls indicating that Britain is on course for a hung parliament, Brown will be anxious to avoid any embarrassment.

While much of Blair’s testimony related to the threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands as the main reason for conflict, Brown instead focussed on former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s failure to cooperate with the UN.

“My feeling was and still is that we cannot have an international community that works if we have either terrorists who are breaking these rules or... aggressor states that refuse to obey the laws of the international community,” he said.

Initially the inquiry, which Brown himself set up last year following long-standing calls from opposition politicians and bereaved families, said it would not call any government ministers until after the election.

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