British Iraq war probe asks questions in France, US

18th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Iraq war inquiry said Tuesday it is visiting the United States to question officials there after quizzing French officials including ex-foreign minister Dominique de Villepin in Paris.

US officials and military officers from the current administration and that of then-president George W. Bush will face questions during a five-day visit, it said, without specifying who in advance.

Members of the official Iraq inquiry -- who suspended their public hearings ahead of this month's British general election -- spent a day in Paris earlier this month, said an inquiry statement.

"The Iraq Inquiry committee met a number of French citizens who provided perspectives on international issues in the lead-up to and during the conflict in Iraq," said the statement, revealing the May 4 Paris trip and the US visit.

These included Villepin -- French foreign minister during the 2003 invasion -- as well as Jean David Levitte, France's former ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, and Gerard Errera, a former ambassador to London.

The committee members have now arrived in the United States to speak to "officials and military officers from the current and former administrations" added the statement on the inquiry's website.

The committee will visit Washington and Boston.

"They will have private discussions with a number of people who have insights into the UK's involvement in Iraq over the period being examined by the inquiry," it said.

As the talks are "being held on a private basis," the identities or locations of those questioned will not be revealed in advance, although details may be published afterwards, if the participants agree.

The inquiry, chaired by retired civil servant Sir John Chilcot, was launched in July last year but was suspended in the run-up to the May 6 elections.

It questioned British leaders including former prime minister Tony Blair over his controversial support for the Bush administration's invasion to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

© 2010 AFP

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