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Blair orders Iraq WMD inquiry

Blair: "I do not accept it was wrong to remove Saddam Hussein."

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Blair confirms inquiry into intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided to hold an inquiry into intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq.

Blair had been under growing pressure to launch an investigation of intelligence reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction after U.S. President George W. Bush signaled a U.S. inquiry.

Until now, Blair has firmly resisted calls for an inquiry, although no banned weapons have been found months after the Iraqi leader was toppled.

Before the war, Blair stated that Iraq was a "serious and current" threat and that it had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.

Making the first of his two scheduled appearances before the House of Commons Liaison Committee this year, Blair said Tuesday he thought there were "issues to do with intelligence, to do with intelligence gathering and evaluation and use by government which we can look at.

"But the issue of good faith was determined by the Hutton inquiry and I really think it is incumbent upon people to accept that," he added.

He insisted Saddam had had "weapons of mass destruction capability" when Britain and the United States went to war.

"It is right that we have a look at the intelligence that we received and whether it is accurate or not," he said.

"I simply say that whatever is discovered as a result of that inquiry, I do not accept it was wrong to remove Saddam Hussein and that the world is not a better or safer place."

Details of the inquiry were announced later in the House of Commons by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

He said the government would set up a committee to review all intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, including Iraq.

Straw said the terms of reference of the inquiry would be to look at intelligence on weapons of mass destruction programs and the global trade in WMD, as well as the accuracy of pre-war intelligence on Iraqi WMD and any discrepancies with what was eventually found.

He said the government recognized "there are wider and entirely legitimate concerns about the reliability of the original intelligence," which had been heightened by comments made by the former head of the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group, David Kay, who has said he does not believe weapons of mass destruction will be found.

Kay, who quit last month, told the U.S. Congress last week that "it turns out we were all wrong, probably" about the Iraqi threat. (Transcript)

He confirmed the committee would be chaired by former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler of Brockwell.

Straw told MPs that Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy had declined to support the inquiry and there would, therefore, be no Liberal Democrat representation on the committee.

He said the committee, which would follow precedents set by the Franks inquiry into the Falklands conflict, would report before parliament's summer recess.

The committee would work closely with its U.S. counterpart and the Iraq Survey Group, he added.

Bush on Monday announced he would appoint a presidential commission to review U.S. intelligence on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (Full story)

The U.S. president told reporters he wanted to look at pre-war intelligence about Iraq as well as what the Survey Group had found in its search for weapons of mass destruction there.

"We also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction in a broader context," Bush said. "So I'm putting together a independent bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand, what we can do better as we fight this war against terror."

A senior administration official told CNN that Bush alone would name the members of the commission.

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