World Bulletin / News Desk
In televised comments from a news conference in central London, Blair said the 2003 invasion was the “hardest, most momentous, most agonizing decision I took as British prime minister” and accepted mistakes had been made.
“For that decision, today I accept full responsibility without exception and without excuse,” he added.
Blair, who was premier from 1997 to 2007, was speaking following the release of the long-awaiting Chilcot report into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
He faces possible legal action from some of the families of the 179 British servicemen and women killed in the conflict after the inquiry found his decision to invade was based on flawed intelligence and made before peaceful options had been exhausted.
The independent inquiry by John Chilcot, a retired civil servant, said Britain’s involvement in the U.S.-led intervention had gone “badly wrong” and the government had failed to achieve its objectives.
Chilcot said in his report that he was not expressing a view on whether military action in Iraq was legal but added: “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.”
Blair said he recognized the division caused in the U.K. by his decision and said he felt “deeply and sincerely, in a way that no words can properly convey, the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq, whether members of our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations or Iraqis.”
He said he would “never agree that those who died or were injured made their sacrifice in vain.”
However, Reg Keys, whose son Tom died in 2003, told reporters: “The only answer I can give to that is that when I look at Iraq on my TV screen today, with the 200-plus deaths that took place the other day, I can only conclude that, unfortunately and sadly, my son died in vain.”