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Blair Testifies at British Inquiry into Iraq War

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made his long-awaited appearance Friday before a British government inquiry to defend his decision to go to war in Iraq.

Mr. Blair said the regime of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was "appalling" and that "we couldn't risk" such a regime developing weapons of mass destruction. The former prime minister added that the U.S. and British assessment of the risk posed by Saddam changed drastically after the September 11th attacks on the U.S..

Mr. Blair was prime minister in 2003 when he joined forces with former U.S. President George W. Bush to lead the Iraq invasion.

Both leaders firmly believed the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found and many critics are questioning whether the war was legal.

Mr. Blair told the inquiry that the only commitment he made in talks with Mr. Bush was "a commitment to deal with Saddam."

The former prime minister's decision to send thousands of British troops to Iraq was one of the most controversial of his time in office, provoking accusations he had deceived the public about the justification for war.

An audience seated in a London convention center for the inquiry included family members of soldiers and civilians killed or missing in Iraq.

Mr. Blair arrived at the inquiry early and entered through a rear entrance, dodging protesters in the front of the building.

The former prime minister has appeared at previous inquiries, but Friday's appearance is the first time he has been questioned with the public watching.