Iraq inquiry: Minister says Britain wanted diplomatic solution
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Last Updated: Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 21:14
London: The first former cabinet minister to give evidence to the Iraq war inquiry insisted today that Britain had always wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis before the 2003 invasion.

Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon kicked off testimony from a series of cabinet ministers ahead of the eagerly awaited appearance of former Prime Minister Tony Blair before the panel on January 29.

Hoon said Britain had always hoped diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq through the United Nations would bear fruit and he doubted that Blair had ever given the United States "unconditional" support for military action.

Blair's influential spokesman at the time of the war, Alastair Campbell, told the inquiry last week that Blair had sent secret notes to then US President George W Bush in the months preceding the March 2003 invasion.

Campbell said that while Blair was pressing Bush to seek a diplomatic solution, he indicated in his notes he would support military action if the UN route failed.

Hoon was asked whether he, as defence minister, would not have expected to have been consulted if Blair was writing notes committing Britain to military action.

"I would have been and that is why I do not believe he was ever unconditionally committing us to anything," Hoon said.

"I think that right up until the vote in the House of Commons our attitude towards the use of force was always conditional."


First Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 21:14

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