Chilcot report released – as it happened: Blair refuses to say sorry for going to war

Former PM mounts lengthy defence for Iraq invasion

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Sir John Chilcot has issued a damning 2.6 million word report into Britain's decision to invade Iraq at the end of a seven-year long inquiry.

Tony Blair's policy was founded on “flawed intelligence” and the process for deciding that the 2003 war was legal was “far from satisfactory”, it found.

The Iraq Inquiry found that Mr Blair's government presented evidence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) “with a certainty that was not justified” and troops were sent in before all peaceful options had been exhausted.

Presenting a summary of his inquiry's findings, Sir John hit out at the “wholly inadequate” planning for the period after the fall of Saddam, which saw British troops involved in a prolonged and bloody occupation as terrorist groups gathered power and sectarian conflict spread.

The former Whitehall mandarin was setting out the findings of his inquiry into the UK's most controversial military engagement since the end of the Second World War, which left at least 150,000 Iraqis - mostly civilians - dead.

Although his inquiry did not express a view on whether the invasion was legal, Sir John criticised the way in which Mr Blair and his attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, had reached their decision on the legal basis.

Sir John said: “The circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory.”

Addressing the issue of WMDs, Sir John said the Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr Blair that the intelligence had not established “beyond doubt” that Iraq had either continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or was continuing with efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

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

Families of the 179 British soldiers killed in the conflict said they were considering legal action.