Blair arrives early for Iraq inquiry, avoids protesters

Blair arrives early for Iraq inquiry, avoids protesters

Former prime minister Tony Blair arrived early for his much-anticipated hearing before Britain's Iraq War Inquiry Friday, presumably to avoid having to angry demonstrators and rows of television cameras, reports said.

Blair, 56, arrived two hours early for his six-hour grilling at the Queen Elizabeth Centre opposite parliament in central London, entering the cordoned-off building through a back entrance, the Press Association said, DPA reported.

Questioning by the five-member panel of the inquiry will focus on the legality of the war, on the claim of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and on alleged secret agreements between Blair and former US President George W Bush about going to war.

Relatives of the 179 British soldiers who died in the conflict will be in the chamber to watch the hearing.

The government-appointed Iraq inquiry has no legal powers, but is an attempt to "reveal the truth" behind the planning, execution and aftermath of the 2003 invasion.

A string of senior government, intelligence and military officials have so far given evidence which, while not revealing new facts, has cast doubt on the official version of events and decisions taken in the run-up to the invasion.

Lindsey German, convener of the protest group Stop The War Coalition, said she was "appalled" that Blair had been driven into the centre by a back entrance.

"He doesn't have the decency or honesty to face up to the public, military families and Iraqis who will be here today in huge numbers to show their opposition to the war," she said, standing in the rain.

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