UK & World News
Clegg Demands Iraq Inquiry Report Is Released
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for the publication of the long-delayed Iraq Inquiry report, stressing the need for lessons to be learned and to "understand the truth".
The Lib Dem leader said those likely to be criticised in the findings of the inquiry team, headed by Sir John Chilcot, should accept it was time for the document to be published.
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took Britain to war in Iraq, responded to Mr Clegg's comments by denying he was responsible for the delay.
The Chilcot inquiry was set up in June 2009, and heard from its final witnesses in February 2011, but its report has been held up because of a row over the release of documents.
It has been suggested the report may not be published until early next year, which could make Iraq an issue in the general election campaign.
In a statement last November, Sir John said he was waiting for the "satisfactory completion of discussions between the inquiry and the Government on disclosure of material that the inquiry wishes to include in its report or publish alongside it".
He pointed to 200 cabinet-level discussions, 25 notes from former Prime Minister Tony Blair to former American president George Bush, and more than 130 records of conversations between either Mr Blair or former prime minister Gordon Brown and President Bush.
Speaking at a press conference in Westminster, Mr Clegg said: "Clearly I think everybody would like, after this very long period of time, for the Chilcot inquiry to be published.
"I'm sure Chilcot himself would like to get on with it as quickly as possible because he has been at this now for a long period of time.
"I can't comment on exactly the reasons why, given that there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about what is finally produced in published form in the report, exactly what the hold-up now is.
"This involves a lot of people, it involves a lot of legalities and of course deals with a very, very sensitive issue.
"But I really do hope now that everybody involved, including those who know they will be subject to renewed scrutiny within the Chilcot report, that they will now accept that it is just time to get this report published so that the record can be scrutinised in the most objective way possible.
"This was one of the most momentous, in my view one of the most catastrophic decisions in British foreign policy - I would say the most catastrophic decision - since Suez.
"It is quite right that as a country we learn the lessons, we understand the truth and that those who might not like to be subject to further scrutiny subject themselves to the further scrutiny which will be included in the Chilcot report."
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: "If Nick Clegg is implying Tony Blair is the reason for the delay that is completely wrong.
"Tony Blair has as much reason as anyone for wanting the report published.
"Not least because it gives him a chance to defend himself against Nick Clegg's assertion that removing Saddam Hussein from power was 'the most catastrophic decision since Suez', whilst daily the consequences of inaction over Syria become ever more apparent."
Sir John and his panel took evidence from witnesses about events prior to the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Supporters of the conflict claimed it would rid the country of its weapons of mass destruction, though no such weapons were found.
Mr Blair has faced heavy criticism for his decision to commit British troops to the war, in which 179 UK service personnel died. A report last year said as many as 500,000 Iraqis had died since the US-led invasion.
Criticism focused on the so-called "dodgy dossier" which formed part of the case for war, and insufficient plans for the aftermath.