Britain's Iraq inquiry delayed by six months: website

17th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

The release of an official British inquiry into the Iraq war will be delayed by at least six months due to debates over access to secret files, a statement on the inquiry's website said Wednesday.

Inquiry chairman John Chilcot previously said the five-member panel would publish its report on Britain's role in the 2003 US-led invasion before the end of the year, but the conclusions are now not expected until mid-2012.

"The Inquiry has advised the government that it will need until at least summer 2012 to produce a draft report which will do justice to the issues involved," said the statement.

"As well as drafting the report, the Inquiry will need to negotiate the declassification of a significant volume of currently classified material with the government, to enable this to be quoted in, or published alongside, the Inquiry's report.

"The Inquiry has made clear that it will need co-operation from the government in completing this in a satisfactory and timely manner," it added.

The inquiry was set up to learn lessons from the conflict, in which 179 British troops died. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians died in the conflict, according to the NGO Iraq Body Count.

Despite the delay, "very considerable progress has already been made", according to the statement.

The inquiry was launched after British troops left Iraq in July 2009 and public hearings began in London that November.

Former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were among the wide cast of diplomats, ministers, military chiefs and civil servants who were called as witnesses, some of them -- including Blair -- more than once.

The inquiry has looked at the justification for the invasion and its legality, the conduct of the war and the supply of military equipment to Britain's troops, and Iraq's descent into chaos after the invasion.

© 2011 AFP

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