Brown to appear at Chilcot inquiry before elections

The UK prime minister has agreed to appear at Britain's Iraq war inquiry before a general election due by June, rather than after as previously expected.

The UK prime minister Gordon Brown has agreed to appear at Britain's Iraq war inquiry before a general election due by June, rather than after as previously expected, the probe's chairman said today. John Chilcot had originally scheduled Mr Brown's appearance after the election to avoid it being used for party political purposes but said he had offered Mr Brown the chance to appear ahead of national polls "as a matter of fairness."

"The prime minister replied to me this morning to say that he will be happy to agree dates from a range we have proposed over the next two months," he said. Extracts of Mr Brown's letter to Mr Chilcot were released by Downing Street. "I offered to give my evidence at any time," the premier wrote. "You have proposed a range of dates in the next two months. I will be happy to agree a date that is to the convenience of the inquiry."

Explaining his initial decision not to call Brown until after the election, which is expected to be held on May 6, Mr Chilcot said he did not want the inquiry to be used as "a platform for political advantage by any political party". "From the outset, we have made it clear that we wish to stay outside party politics," he added. Mr Chilcot said that David Miliband and Douglas Alexander, Britain's current foreign secretary and international development secretary respectively, would also be called to give evidence before the election.

The two were both government ministers at the time of the invasion, but with lower-level responsibilities relating to domestic, not foreign, policy. Mr Brown's predecessor Tony Blair, who controversially backed US president George W Bush in invading Iraq in 2003, is due to appear before the British inquiry next Friday. * AFP

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