Grieving mother grills Iraq inquiry

THE mother of an East Bierley soldier killed in Iraq travelled to the capital on Friday to pose questions to the Iraq Inquiry.

In an open letter to the former prime minister Tony Blair, Pauline Hickey asked him to explain the government's reasons for invading Iraq in March 2003.

Her son, Christian, a sergeant with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed by a roadside bomb during a foot patrol in Basra - just three days before he was due to return home, in 2005.

Mrs Hickey said Mr Blair had a "moral duty as a renowned committed Christian" to meet the families of the fallen and explain his stance.

The anti-war campaigner has never managed to speak to Mr Blair, but as reported in the Spenborough Guardian last year, she did meet Gordon Brown and Defence Secetary Des Browne, but got "no direct answers."

Mrs Hickey and other members of the Military Families Against the War organisation have campaigned for a public inquiry for several years.

She said: "We had a really productive day and we asked the panel various questions.

"One of the main things people want to know is why this isn't being held in a court of law and the witnesses are not under oath.

"Members of the panel said there is was an expecatation people would tell the truth, but in the light of the MPs' expenses scandal I have my reservations."

Mrs Hickey's questions were given to the panel, led by Sir John Chilcot, and will be handed to Mr Blair when he is called to the inquiry next year.

She said: "Mr Blair said repeatedly his policy objective was disarmament of Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

"He told the House of Commons Saddam Hussein could stay in power, if Iraq disarmed in accordance with the Security Council's resolutions and said the government was prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.

"This statement was untrue, as he had already agreed with President Bush to invade Iraq and overthrow the regime, come what may.

"This is testified to in memos by David Manning and Christopher Meyer from March 2002."

Mrs Hickey also asked why Mr Blair failed to tell the House of Commons all Iraq's weapons and related material had been destroyed in 1991, when Saddam Hussein's son in law, Hussein Kamal, revealed the information to UN inspectors in 1995.

She added:"Mr Blair told the House of Commons about other disclosures by Hussein Kamal, but not this crucial one.

"Also, the Intelligence Services told Mr Blair before the invasion of Iraq, that in their opinion, the threat from al Qaida and associated groups would be heightened by military action against Iraq.

"Why did he not tell Parliament about this?

"The subsequent London bombings have confirmed this, and led to more totally unnecessary deaths."

The inquiry is expected to end next year.