Past and present chiefs of MI6 are to be among the first witnesses to give evidence to the official inquiry into the Iraq war, it was disclosed yesterday.
Sir John Scarlett, who retired as director general of the Secret Intelligence Service last month, will be questioned about his chairmanship of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).
During that time, between 2001 and 2004, he oversaw the Government's dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Sir John Sawers, who took over as "C" this month, will be called to speak about his time as the private secretary with responsibility for foreign affairs to then prime minister Tony Blair.
They were among 20 top advisers, diplomats and military figures named as forthcoming witnesses by the Iraq Inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot.
He said the first round of public hearings would concentrate on the build-up to the war, focusing on intelligence matters, relations with the US and planning.
The first hearing will take place at London's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, near the Houses of Parliament, on November 24.
Others to give evidence in the period running up to Christmas include:
- Sir Christopher Meyer, the British ambassador to Washington until 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion;
- Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Mr Blair until 2003;
- Admiral Lord Boyce, the head of the Armed Forces until 2003;
- Sir Kevin Tebbit, the top civil servant at the Ministry of Defence between 1998 and 2005;
- Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK's permanent representative at the United Nations between 1998 and 2003;
- Sir Peter Ricketts, who was Sir John Scarlett's predecessor in charge of the JIC, which oversees the three intelligence and security agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Ministers, including Mr Blair, are to be summoned early in the new year.
Sir John Chilcot said the initial hearings would be used to establish a "reliable account" of the UK's involvement in Iraq.
"We will cover a wide range of topics during these hearings," he said.
"Those topics will include UK government policy on Iraq between 2001 and 2003, transatlantic relations during this time, policy and intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, and planning by the military and other governmental bodies for the invasion and its immediate aftermath.
"We will also look at developments at the UN, including the negotiation of UN Security Council resolution 1441."
He added that the inquiry would not be looking at the legal basis for military action until January, which is when it will start calling ministers to give evidence.
The inquiry is not expected to report until the end of 2010, or even 2011.
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