Friday, January 29, 2010

Protests Outside Iraq War Inquiry in London

Friday, January 29, 2010
17:09 Mecca time, 14:09 GMT

Protests outside Iraq war inquiry

Protesters outside the inquiry read aloud the names of civilians and military personnel killed in Iraq

Protesters chanting "Tony Blair, war criminal" gathered outside the inquiry into the Iraq war as the former British prime minister gave evidence.

Families of some of the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq joined about 200 anti-war demonstrators shouting and waving placards outside the building hosting the inquiry in central London.

The decision to send 45,000 British troops to Iraq was the most controversial of Blair's 10-year premiership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour party and accusations he had deceived the public about the justification for war.

Seven years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi leader, and almost three years after Blair handed over to Gordon Brown, the issue still provokes deep anger.

'Military adventure'

Blair arrived early for the inquiry and entered by a back door amid heavy security and large numbers of police on standby.

Barbara Serra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in London, said: "A lot of people here are disappointed as they wanted to confront Blair when he came in, but he entered through a back entrance."

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Sabah Jawad, an Iraqi activist, said: "We are hoping at best for Tony Blair to admit that he made a mistake, that he regrets the action.

"The action he took in 2003 with president Bush had a devastating impact on the people of Iraq, and Iraq as a country.

"A million people died as a result of this military adventure and the Iraqi people are still suffering daily.

"All the opinion polls still indicate that the British people are very much bitter about what happened to them because they think they have been deceived by Tony Blair.

"By his lies about the weapons of mass destruction, about the link to terrorism and so on."

'Accomplished actor'

As Blair testified, demonstrators outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre read aloud the names of civilians and military personnel killed in Iraq.

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