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Iraq inquiry to focus on legality
Former government lawyers to testify that 2003 invasion was illegal, newspaper says.
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2010 20:42 GMT
 Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, is to testify before the inquiry on Friday [GALLO/GETTY]

Two former British government lawyers are expected to tell the public inquiry into the Iraq war that Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion was illegal.

British media reports on Sunday said Michael Wood, the senior legal advisor to the British foreign office at the time and his then-deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, are due to give evidence on Tuesday.

Wilmshurst, who resigned in protest at the invasion, will say that there was infighting between British officials and ministers over the legality of invading Iraq without a resolution from the United Nations, The Independent on Sunday newspaper reported.

The inquiry is also expected to publish evidence to support the two witnesses' claims.

Their testimonies will come the day before an appearance by Peter Goldsmith, Britain's former attorney-general, who dropped his legal objections to the war just days before the invasion.

But much of the week's focus will be on Friday when Tony Blair, the former prime minister, is due to give evidence.

'Hunger for blood'

Jean Seaton, the associate editor of Prospect magazine and the author of an article analysing the inquiry, said the inquiry is getting closer to determining the way in which the government operated in the lead-up to the invasion.

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"There is a huge hunger to somehow see blood on the floor. People want the humiliation [of former leaders]," she told Al Jazeera.

"I don't think [the public] knew the detail of how it was that people came to their decisions and how they made their dispositions.

"Seeing Elisabeth Wilmshurst - who is one of the people who acted in a way that is quite controversial - seeing those people and how they arrived at what are always quite difficult judgments will be a very profound backdrop to seeing Tony Blair."

The inquiry is also expected to hear testimony from Gordon Brown, Britain's current prime minister, John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry, has said.

Party politics

Brown's scheduled appearance is likely to take place before parliamentary elections, raising concerns that the inquiry could become caught up in party politics.

An initial decision to hear from Brown after the elections had drawn criticism from his opponents, who said the prime minister was trying to avoid drawing attention to his role in the war before voters headed to the polls.

Brown served as finance minister as Tony Blair decided to include UK troops in the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The conflict split British public opinion and spawned a massive protest movement, and much remaining support for the campaign withered away as Iraq descended into chaos.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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