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Question Time



Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 10:22 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in London on 22 March.

He was joined by Defence Secretary Des Browne MP, Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy MP, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto and president of the Stop the War coalition Tony Benn.


Defence secretary Des Browne MP

Career: Des Browne is the Secretary of State for Defence. His time in the post, which began in May 2006, when he was promoted from chief secretary to the Treasury, has coincided with an escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq.

In October 2006, asked by the BBC whether there would be an inquiry into the Iraq war, he answered: "When the time is right of course there will be such an inquiry."

In a speech of last November, he said: "I am determined not to allow a single one of the 7,000 British soldiers sailors and air personnel currently in Iraq to stay there any longer than is necessary."


Conservative shadow defence secretary Liam Fox MP

Career: Liam Fox is the Conservative shadow defence secretary, having previously been shadow foreign secretary.

He ran for the party leadership in 2005, finishing third. During his campaign he criticised fellow candidate Ken Clarke's opposition to the Iraq war, saying: "The decision to go to war was made...to go back over this time and time again is to detract attention away from the very important task of reconstructing Iraq... it undermines the morale of our troops."

In a speech in February 2006, he said of the possibility of a future pre-emptive military action against Iran: "Frederick the Great once observed that diplomacy without arms was like music without instruments... he was certainly right about this. We must keep all options open if we are to stand any chance of achieving a diplomatic solution to the Iranian crisis."


Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Charles Kennedy MP

Career: Charles Kennedy is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

In early 2003 he led his party in a forthright opposition to the invasion of Iraq that saw him address crowds at anti-war demonstrations during the build up to the conflict. He wrote at the time: "There is genuine public perception that we are being bulldozed into a war not of our choosing and not - on the basis of the evidence so far - vital to national interests."

He resigned the leadership of the Liberal Democrats last January after admitting he had a drink problem. During his tenure the party had their most successful election performance for 80 years when they returned 63 MPs in May 2005.


Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton

Career: John Bolton is the former US ambassador to the United Nations, and was one of the most influential figures in the Bush administration during the build up to and aftermath of the Iraq invasion, until his resignation in December 2006.

Regarded as one of the most prominent hawks in recent US political life, he has served in a number of Republican administrations, including as Assistant Attorney General under President Reagan, and as under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001.

In January he made headlines with his description of the current situation in Iraq, telling Channel 4 News: "the fundamental point is whether the civil war that exists now is going to continue or whether the Iraqis are going to decide to live together in one country." He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto

Career: Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to lead a post-colonial Muslim state. She has twice been prime minister of Pakistan, from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 to 1996.

The daughter of a previous Pakistani prime minister, she entered the limelight at a young age, spending five years in jail when her father was imprisoned, and later executed, following a military coup.

She has written that "the inability to find weapons of mass destruction and the Abu Ghraib abuses undermined the reasons given for the Iraq war."


President of the Stop the War Coalition Tony Benn

Career: Tony Benn is president of the Stop the War Coalition, and was the longest serving MP in the history of the Labour party, holding posts in the cabinets of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

Since retiring from the House of Commons in May 2001 to "devote more time to politics", he has been a leading figure in the British opposition to the Iraq war, which he describes as "an act of criminal aggression".

In February 2003, on the eve of the invasion, he travelled to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein and conduct a televised interview with him. He began by saying: "I come for one reason only - to see whether in a talk we can explore, or you can help me to see, what the paths to peace may be."

A Daily Politics Show poll in January 2007 selected Benn as the UK's "political hero", narrowly beating Baroness Thatcher.

Question Time Iraq special from London

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