A British inquiry into the Iraq war strongly criticized former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government on Wednesday for joining the US-led invasion without a satisfactory legal basis or proper planning.
The Chilcot report, named after former diplomat and civil servant John Chilcot who served as the chair of the inquiry, said there was no imminent threat from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in March 2003, and the chaos in Iraq and the region which followed should also have been foreseen.
The long-awaited inquiry report stopped short of saying military action was illegal, a stance that is certain to disappoint Blair's many critics.
"We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory," Chilcot said in a speech presenting his findings.
The report said Britain had joined the invasion without exhausting peaceful options, that it had underestimated the consequences of the invasion, and that the planning was wholly inadequate. The invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had, by 2009, resulted in the deaths of at least 150,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, and displaced more than a million.
Blair responded saying that he had taken the decision to go to war in Iraq "in good faith," that he still believed it was better to remove Saddam, and that he did not see that action as the cause of terrorism today, in the Middle East or elsewhere.
Blair argued the report should exonerate him from accusations of lying.
"The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit," he said in a statement.
"Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country."
The former prime minister said he would respond in full detail later on Wednesday, and would take full responsibility for any mistakes.
Published seven years after the inquiry was set up, the report runs to 2.6 million words and includes details of exchanges Blair had with then US President George W. Bush over the invasion.
"It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged and they should have been," Chilcot said.
He also said that Blair's government's judgments about the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were "presented with unjustified certainty."
Relatives of some of the British soldiers who died in Iraq said they would study the report to examine if there was a legal case to pursue against those responsible.
Iraq remains in chaos to this day. Islamic State controls large areas of the country and 250 people died on Saturday in Baghdad's worst car bombing since the US-led coalition toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
The inquiry rejected Blair's view that Iraq's post-invasion problems could not have been known in advance.
The inquiry's purpose was for the British government to learn lessons from the invasion and occupation that followed, in which 179 British soldiers died.
British lawmakers, led by the Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond, previously said they were considering invoking an ancient law, last used in 1806, to impeach Blair in parliament.
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