Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Blair barracked over Iraq regret

Tony Blair

Tony Blair has been jeered and heckled as he said he "deeply and profoundly" regretted the loss of life in the Iraq War.

Making his second appearance before the Iraq Inquiry, the former prime minister struck a noticeably more conciliatory tone than at his first appearance a year ago.

But his words drew a furious response from some of the relatives in the hearing room, with Rose Gentle - whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004 - crying out: "Too late."

Two women stood and turned their backs on Mr Blair while others in the public gallery at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre at Westminster were openly weeping.

Moments earlier he had provoked murmurs of unrest with a stark warning that the West should end its "wretched posture of apology" towards Iran and, if necessary, use force to deal with the Tehran regime.

At his first hearing, when he was asked by inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot if he had any regrets, Mr Blair replied that he did not regret removing Saddam Hussein in the invasion of 2003. This time, his voice choked with emotion, he said that it was never "my meaning or my intention" to suggest that he did not regret the loss of life in the conflict and its aftermath.

"I wanted to make it clear that, of course, I regret deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves," he said.

As he left the inquiry room, Mrs Gentle shouted at him: "Your lies killed my son. I hope you can live with it."

The hearing shed little new light on the events surrounding the invasion by British and US forces, with Mr Blair again mounting an assured and fluent defence of his actions.

Mr Blair's appearance at the inquiry was again the subject of a massive security operation, with the former premier arriving at the conference centre more than two hours before the hearing began. However, only a small number of anti-war protesters turned out to demonstrate their continuing anger at his decision to take the country into what they regard as an illegal conflict.

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