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Blair makes 'apology' over UK’s role in Iraq War after Chilcot Report

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Former British prime minister Tony Blair voiced "sorrow, regret and apology" after a damning report on the Iraq war Wednesday, but said he did not mislead parliament and did not regret toppling Saddam Hussein.

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"I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe," said Blair, his voice breaking with emotion in a speech in central London.

However, he added: "As the report makes clear there were no lies, parliament and cabinet were not misled, there was no secret commitment to war.

"The intelligence was not falsified and the decision was made in good faith."

Blair made his comments at a press conference in London after publication of the long-awaited Chilcot Report into Britain's role in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq sharply criticised him.

The former premier said the decision to take the UK to war was the "most agonising" he had ever taken, adding: "I will never agree that those who died or were injured... made their sacrifice in vain".

"I knew it was not a popular decision... I did it because I thought it was right and because I thought the human cost of inaction... would be greater for us and for the world in the longer term," he said.

Blair went on to claim that if the Iraqi dictator had been allowed to remain in power in 2003 "he'd have once again threatened world peace," rejecting claims that the war itself increased the terror threat.

"At least in Iraq, for all its challenges, we have today a government that is elected, is recognised as internationally legitimate," he said.

The ex-PM also said, "what I've tried to do today is explain why I acted as I did. And, you know, in the end what more can I do than say to people 'This is why I took the decision I did and if you disagree with me, fine, but please stop saying I was lying or, you know, I had some sort of dishonest or underhand motive'."

Iraqis react to the findings of the Chilcot report

Seven-year-long inquiry

Retired civil servant Sir John Chilcot, who oversaw the seven-year-long inquiry, said the UK "chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted", adding: "Military action at that time was not a last resort."

The report runs to 2.6 million words – about three times the length of the Bible – and includes details of exchanges Blair had with then US president George W. Bush over the invasion.

“It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged and they should have been,” Chilcot said in presenting its findings.

Chilcot said then Blair's government presented an assessment of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons with "certainty that was not justified". He also found military planning for the war and its aftermath were not up to the task.

"The people of Iraq have suffered greatly" because of a military intervention "which went badly wrong", he said. But he refrained from specifying whether the 2003 invasion was legal, and did not find that Blair and his government knowingly misled Parliament or the British public.

Iraq remains in chaos to this day. The Islamic State (IS) group controls large areas of the country, and 250 people died on Saturday in Baghdad’s worst car bombing since the US-led coalition toppled its former dictator.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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