Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

WMD not reason I backed Iraq war, says Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown is due to appear before the Chilcot inquiry in March

Gordon Brown has said the threat of weapons of mass destruction was not the reason he backed the invasion of Iraq.

The PM told Tribune magazine that ministers were told there were weapons but his support was based on Iraq's "breach of international obligations".

He also said his appearance at the Iraq inquiry next month was a chance to show "everything I did was both thought-through and justified".

The Lib Dems said the comments were a "shaky attempt to rewrite history".

Former prime minister Tony Blair told the Chilcot inquiry last month that he believed Saddam Hussein was a "monster" who had weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion and was a threat "not just the region but the world".

Mr Blair denied he would have supported the invasion even if he had thought Saddam did not possess WMDs, as he appeared to suggest last year in a BBC interview with Fern Britton.

'Unanswered questions'

But Mr Brown said weapons were not his prime motivation, and instead it was Iraq's persistent disregard for United Nations' resolutions which "put at risk" global security.

"The evidence that was given to us was that there were weapons and that was the finding of a number of people, but for me the reason for intervention was always the breach of international obligations by the Iraqi government," he said.

If Brown believed this at the time... why didn't he stay Blair's hand?
Ed Davey, Lib Dems

Mr Brown was not originally scheduled to give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry until after the general election, but amid some pressure from opposition parties Mr Brown wrote to the inquiry saying he was prepared to give evidence "whenever you see fit". He is expected to do so early next month.

He told the left-leaning Tribune magazine: "I don't want people to think that there are unanswered questions.

"I also want my opportunity to explain what I tried to do and how I managed the things I managed to do. I want to make sure that people know that everything I did was both thought-through and justified."

The Liberal Democrats accused Mr Brown of "desperately trying to distance himself" from both Mr Blair and the war.

"If Brown believed this at the time - when he was part of the Iraq war inner circle - why didn't he stay Blair's hand and give more time to Hans Blix's weapons inspectors?", foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said.

"Either he dithered unforgivably, or was just as convinced as Blair by the neocon case for war.

The Iraq Inquiry is looking at events between 2001 and 2009, covering the decision to go to war, whether troops were properly prepared, how the conflict was conducted and aftermath planning. It has said it may not publish its findings before 2011.

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