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Britain's Iraq War Inquiry Resumes

Britain's Iraq war inquiry began again on Tuesday after suspending its hearings for the country's general elections.  Former U.N. inspector Hans Blix is among those called to appear before the five-member panel in the coming weeks.

Britain's inquiry into the war in Iraq was put on hold for more than four months to make way for the country's general election.

During the interval, the panel traveled to France and the United States to interview key players in the Iraq invasion.  The committee also spoke with U.S. General David Petraeus during a visit he recently made to Britain.

The inquiry was set up by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to investigate Britain's role in the Iraq war.

Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who oversaw the weapons inspection in Iraq before the invasion, will appear before the inquiry in the coming weeks.

Wyn Rees, a professor in politics at Britain's Nottingham University, says Blix will make an interesting contribution to the inquiry because he was highly critical of the invasion.

"Blix is interesting because he maintained there was more work for his team to do, we went to war prematurely, there was more that he would have uncovered and he would have been able to give a more definitive statement short of actual military force as to whether Iraq was developing WMD capabilities or not," he said.

The inquiry panel has also invited international lawyers to comment on the legality of the war.  Britain's former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has already told the committee that the invasion was legally justified because Iraq had failed to comply with U.N. resolutions.

"There are going to be other people now who are going to be asked effectively what their recommendations were, what their understanding of the legal position was," he said.  "Because that's been in many ways the most controversial issue as to whether it was right, legal to go into Iraq and to use force and to unseat Saddam Hussein and to change the regime that was in power at the time," said Rees.

Earlier this year Tony Blair, who was prime minister when the war began, and his successor Gordon Brown, were questioned by the panel.  Their Labor Party was voted out in Britain's recent election, and now a new coalition government is in power.  Rees says now that Labor is not at the helm, public interest in the Iraq inquiry may wane.

"Post the election -- no longer a Labor government in power, a new administration overseeing the Chilcott Inquiry -- I think there's going to be less interest.  And I think leading up to the report, I think maybe a slight sense of disappointment over how searching and probing the questions and the ultimate findings will be," said Rees.  "So perhaps a slight sense of disappointment at the end of the process that not as much has come out of this as some people have hoped," he added.

Chairman of the inquiry, John Chilcott, says the five-person committee intends to publish its report by the end of the year.  The current session will end on July 30th, with the option to have another round of hearings later in the year.

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