Majority of Britons want Iraq war inquiry

LONDON (Reuters) - The vast majority of Britons want an inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq and most are also unconvinced by the government’s arguments for the conflict in Afghanistan, according to a survey on Monday.

A British soldier rides an offroad vehicle during training in their camp in Basra, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of Baghdad January 27, 2009. REUTERS/Atef Hassan

A ComRes survey for the BBC found 72 percent thought there should be an official public inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq war, as opposition parties have demanded.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out holding an inquiry until all British troops have left the country. The remaining 4,000 or so soldiers, based near the southern city of Basra, are due to start pulling out at the end of May.

Britain’s involvement in the invasion has always been controversial and divisive, and the government has resisted publicising official documents about decisions made in the run-up to war.

Last month, the government refused to publish public records of cabinet discussions on the legality of the military action despite being ordered to by the Information Commissioner.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw used a ministerial veto, saying the publication would damage cabinet government.

Confidential emails released last week also revealed that British intelligence officials were worried about a dossier released by then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 2002 which was used to justify military action.

The ComRes poll also showed that 60 percent of the 1,013 people questioned were not convinced by the government’s arguments in support of keeping British troops in Afghanistan.

So far, 152 British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, with the latest deaths coming on Sunday when two soldiers were killed in an explosion.

Earlier this month, former British SAS commander Major Sebastian Morley said the military operation in the country was “worthless.”

Despite the attitudes towards both conflicts, the survey found that 91 percent of respondents believed that serving in the armed forces was a job to be proud of.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison