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Tony Blair regret over facets of Iraq War 'is just spin'

By Joe Churcher

Tony Blair has apologised for aspects of the Iraq War, sparking claims of attempted "spin" ahead of the Chilcot Inquiry findings.

The former Prime Minister used a US television interview to express regret over the failure to plan properly for the aftermath of the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein and the false intelligence used to justify it.

"I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong," he told CNN.

"I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime."

Asked by host Fareed Zakaria if the Iraq War was "the principal cause" of the rise of Islamic State, he was reported by the Mail on Sunday to have conceded: "I think there are elements of truth in that."

He added: "Of course, you can't say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the former PM of starting to prepare the ground for expected criticisms when the long-delayed report of the Chilcot Inquiry is finally published. "The Blair spin operation begins but the country still awaits the truth," the Scottish National Party leader posted on Twitter.

"The delay to Chilcot report is a scandal."

No date has yet been given for the release of the final conclusions - more than six years after the inquiry was set up by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, with an assurance it would take a year.

The process was severely delayed by a process known as Maxwellisation, under which those who may face criticism - believed to include Mr Blair - are given the opportunity to respond before publication.

Relatives of soldiers killed in the conflict have threatened legal action if a date is not fixed soon.

A spokeswoman for the former PM said: "Tony Blair has always apologised for the intelligence being wrong and for mistakes in planning. He has always also said, and says again here, that he does not however think it was wrong to remove Saddam.

"He did not say the decision to remove Saddam in 2003 'caused Isis' and pointed out that Isis was barely heard of at the end of 2008. He went on to say in 2009, Iraq was relatively more stable."

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