Britain's Iraq war bill 'will top £5bn'

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The invasion and occupation of Iraq will cost the UK more than £5bn, making it Britain's most expensive conflict since the Second World War, economists have calculated.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq will cost the UK more than £5bn, making it Britain's most expensive conflict since the Second World War, economists have calculated.

Professor Keith Hartley, one of Britain's leading defence economists, says the bill for military operations alone in Iraq is already £1bn more than the Government has stated because ministers have failed to count the full costs of the operation.

His estimates exclude the £390m spent on civil reconstruction and the undisclosed costs of spying.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' economic affairs spokesman, said: "The Government should be more open and explicit about the costs of the war. It's probably fair to say that the Bush administration, for all its faults, has been more open with Congress than the British Government has been with the Commons."

He quoted the Treasury as telling him the Ministry of Defence had so far spent nearly £3.2bn in Iraq. However, Professor Hartley, director of the Centre for Defence Economics at the University of York, contests that figure.

The professor said the costs of the invasion and occupation had already reached £4.2bn because Whitehall had failed to take into account manpower and equipment, ignoring the £58m "value" of the 87 British soldiers killed and hundreds injured.

By March 2006, that bill was likely to rise to £5bn he said.

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