Former British FM Straw to bring Iraq hearings to a close

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Former foreign minister Jack Straw was Wednesday to give evidence to Britain's Iraq war inquiry for the third time as the panel prepared to hold its final public hearing.

Straw, who was foreign minister when Britain decided to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, was expected to be quizzed over the legal basis for the intervention.

At previous hearings, Straw said that his decision to support the war had been the most "difficult decision" of his career, and had been taken "very reluctantly."

The former minister also told the inquiry that he ignored the views of many senior Foreign Office lawyers, who told him the war was illegal, and followed the advice of the government's then chief legal advisor, Peter Goldsmith.

Straw's appearance before the inquiry was expected to be the final one, bringing to an end more than 100 public hearings stretching back to November 2009.

More than 120 witnesses, including former leaders Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, have given evidence at the inquiry, which has been chaired by John Chilcot.

Chilcot said he hopes to give Prime Minister David Cameron the completed report as soon as possible, but said it "will take time."

© 2011 AFP

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