Iraq war inquiry to get under way
The long-awaited official inquiry into the Iraq War is to begin by taking evidence in public, AP reported.
Three senior officials from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence will be the first witnesses as the televised proceedings start by examining the policies which led to the invasion of 2003.
They will be followed over the coming weeks by a succession of diplomats, military officers and politicians, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is expected to appear early in the new year.
It was the final withdrawal of the last main body of British troops from Iraq earlier this year which finally cleared the way for Gordon Brown to appoint the inquiry his predecessor had for so long resisted.
The five-strong inquiry team, headed by retired Whitehall mandarin Sir John Chilcot, has been given a wide-ranging remit covering the period from the lead-up to war from 2001 to the present day. Much of the attention will focus on the original decision to go to war and whether it was legal in terms of international law.
Sir John has said that while the inquiry will not shrink from criticism, it is not a court of law handing down a verdict of "legal or illegal". Instead he said it would aim to produce a "full and insightful" account of the decision-making process which took Britain to war.
The first witnesses will be Sir Peter Ricketts, who was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in 2001, Simon Webb, who was policy director at the MoD, and Sir William Patey who was head of the Middle East Department at the Foreign Office.
Sir Michael Wood, who was legal adviser at the Foreign Office, will also give evidence. Other confirmed witnesses include Sir Jeremy Greenstock who was Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, and the former Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Lord Boyce.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has denied fresh claims that soldiers abused detainees held in Iraq. The Independent published a photograph apparently showing a British soldier guarding four Iraqis lying face down on the ground, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs. The newspaper said that the incident was to be investigated.
A MoD spokesman said that it had found "no credible evidence" of the mistreatment of detainees following the incident and denied that the treatment in the photograph in The Independent represented a breach of the Geneva Conventions.