Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Spy bosses to face Iraq inquiry

Iraqi boy and UK soldier in Basra, Iraq - 17/12/2008
The invasion of Iraq happened in 2003

Past and present intelligence services bosses will be among the first witnesses to give evidence to the inquiry into the Iraq war.

Sessions held from 21 to 27 November will focus on the dossier claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and UK diplomatic efforts before the conflict.

Ex-Joint Intelligence Committee head Sir John Scarlett and current MI6 boss Sir John Sawers will give evidence.

The inquiry is expected to report its findings by 2011.

Sir John Scarlett, who retired as director general of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) last month, oversaw the government dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction under Saddam Hussein.

20 witnesses

Sir John Sawers, who took over as "C" - the boss of MI6 - 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 are among 20 past and present advisers, diplomats and military figures named as forthcoming witnesses by the Iraq Inquiry.

The first hearing will take place at London's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, near the Houses of Parliament, on 24 November.

Others to give evidence in the period running up to Christmas include Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to Washington until 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK's permanent representative at the United Nations between 1998 and 2003.

Ministers, including Mr Blair, are to be summoned early in the new year.

Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said: "We will cover a wide range of topics during these hearings.

"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". The resolution, passed in 2002, warned Iraq of "serious consequences" if it did not comply with the UN over alleged weapons of mass destruction".

Sir John 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 will cover the whole period from July 2001 to July 2009.

Previously, the Butler inquiry looked at intelligence failures before the war, while the Hutton inquiry examined the circumstances leading to the death of former government adviser David Kelly.

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