Iraq War was illegal, says U.K.’s former Deputy PM

Britain broke international law when it invaded Iraq in 2003, its Deputy-Prime Minister at the time, John Prescott, said on Sunday.

July 11, 2016 12:03 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST - LONDON:

Ex-U.K. Deputy-Prime Minister John Prescott. File photo

Ex-U.K. Deputy-Prime Minister John Prescott. File photo

Britain broke international law when it invaded Iraq in 2003, its Deputy-Prime Minister at the time, John Prescott, said on Sunday in the wake of a critical report on the decision to go to war.

A seven-year inquiry concluded on Wednesday that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War involved a catalogue of failures, but did not rule whether the war was legal. Eight months before the 2003 invasion, Mr. Blair told former U.S. President George W. Bush “I will be with you, whatever”, eventually sending 45,000 British troops.

Mr. Prescott, writing in The Sunday Mirror newspaper, said he had now changed his view about the legality of the war and criticised Mr. Blair for stopping his Ministers from fully discussing in advance whether the war would be legal. “In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq War, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right,” Mr. Prescott wrote.

Many Britons want Mr. Blair to face criminal action over his decision to take military action that led to the deaths of 179 British soldiers and more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians over the following six years.

Offers apology Mr. Prescott added that he backed the decision by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — a veteran anti-war campaigner and critic of Blair — to apologise for the war on behalf of the party.

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of lawmakers said they would seek next week a vote declaring Mr. Blair in contempt of Parliament for misleading it in the run-up to the decision to go to war.

The possible implications of such a vote were not immediately clear, but The Sunday Times newspaper said it could see Mr. Blair barred from public office for life or stripped of his membership of the Privy Council, a largely ceremonial body that advises Queen Elizabeth.

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