Britain must not retreat into itself after Iraq war says Foreign Secretary David Miliband

Britain must not turn its back on the world as a result of the controversy over the Iraq war, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said today.

Mr Miliband told the Chilcot Inquiry it was important not to learn the "wrong lesson" from the conflict and to decide to leave international engagement to other countries.

He also argued that the authority of the United Nations would have been badly damaged if the UK and the US had not followed through threats to Saddam Hussein with military action.

The Foreign Secretary admitted that the March 2003 invasion of Iraq exposed "divisions" in the international community.

But he insisted the UN would have been damaged if the conflict had not gone ahead.

Mr Miliband told the inquiry: "I think it's very important that we don't learn the wrong lesson, and the wrong lesson, it seems to me, is that Britain should leave international engagement to others, that the world is just so complicated and so dangerous that we are better off retreating into ourselves.

"There is an argument about whether or not medium-sized countries should think of themselves as global players.

"And I think it's going to be an argument that is more and more pressing in the months and years ahead because of the temptations for politicians - never mind those concerned with the finances - to rein us in."

He added: "We mustn't be a country that turns our back on the world because if we do, because of the hard decisions that we are faced with, we will be much poorer in all senses of that term."

Mr Miliband told the inquiry he voted for the invasion of Iraq in the Commons because Saddam's defiance of the UN posed a danger to global peace and security.

He said: "The authority of the UN, I think, would have been severely dented if the hypothetical case that you are putting - that we had marched to the top of the hill of pressure and then walked down again without disarming Saddam - then I think that would have been really quite damaging for any of the multilateral aims that we have that need to be pursued through the UN."

He added: "One of the striking points of the time is that the longer the UN fails to impose its will, the harsher the measures required when it finally does impose its will."

Britain and the US failed to get a second UN Security Council resolution directly authorising the invasion of Iraq, splitting the international community and leading critics to argue that the war was illegal.

Mr Miliband admitted: "Divisions in the UN were exposed by the run-up to the vote and then the absence of a vote (on taking military action against Saddam), and then divisions in Europe were exposed and divisions in the Western alliance were exposed."

But he said "all the intelligence agencies of the world" thought the Iraqi dictator had weapons material that posed a danger to international security.

The Foreign Secretary rejected claims that the overthrow of the Iraqi regime in 2003 freed up Iran to back militant groups and destabilise the Middle East.

"I don't buy the thesis that the removal of Saddam released Iran to do its ill around the region," he said.

Mr Miliband also argued that the murders of at least three out of five British contractors seized in Baghdad in May 2007 should not alter how the UK handles kidnappings.

He said: "We have a very, very clear policy that we will not make substantive concessions to hostage-takers, and I don't think that any lesson of this affair should be that we should change that policy."

Adjourning the inquiry's public sessions in central London until after the general election, chairman Sir John Chilcot issued a warning to politicians.

He said: "The Iraq Inquiry intends to remain out of the public eye over the period of the election.

"Because we are independent and non-political, we have been clear from the outset that we have to remain outside party politics and we have asked the political parties to respect that position.

"I would like to repeat that request as the election campaign comes closer."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map