Blair faces fresh Iraq grilling


Former prime minister Tony Blair is to appear before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war for a second time

Tony Blair faces fresh questions about his decision to take Britain to war with Iraq when he makes his second appearance before the Chilcot Inquiry into the war.

The former prime minister has been recalled to explain gaps in his earlier evidence and apparent discrepancies between his account and official documents and other witnesses’ testimony.

He is expected to be grilled about what promises he made to former US president George Bush and his attitude to the advice about the legality of the war he received from former attorney general Lord Goldsmith.

The inquiry panel will ask Mr Blair about the secret messages he sent to Mr Bush in the build-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

It emerged this week that the head of the Civil Service, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, has refused requests for extracts from the notes to be released.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said he was “disappointed” by the decision, which he pointed out flew in the face of revelations about the contents of the documents in Mr Blair and Mr Bush’s recent memoirs.

Sir John said the question of when and how the former prime minister made commitments to the US about Britain’s involvement in military action against Iraq was “central” to the inquiry’s considerations.

Ex-Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell told the inquiry last year that Mr Blair’s secret messages assured Mr Bush that Britain would “be there” if it came to military action.

Fresh evidence emerged this week of Lord Goldsmith’s misgivings about how his legal advice was being used in the period before the war. The former attorney general revealed he was “uncomfortable” about Mr Blair’s public comments that Britain could attack Iraq without further United Nations backing when he was receiving clear legal advice to the contrary.

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