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British Prime Minister to Face Iraq Inquiry Before Election

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown will give evidence to the country's Iraq Inquiry before general elections expected later in the year. The announcement came Friday following mounting pressure from opposition politicians.

The chairman of the Iraq Inquiry, John Chilcot, made the announcement Friday, saying Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other cabinet ministers will give evidence to the inquiry within the next two months.

"As a matter of fairness, the committee concluded, we should offer the prime minister, if he wished to take it up, the opportunity for him, for David Miliband his foreign secretary and Douglas Alexander the development secretary to attend hearings before the general election," he said.

Mr. Brown's spokesperson said the Prime Minister was keen to "state the case" about why Britain was right to take action in Iraq.

Mr. Brown's appearance at the inquiry was not expected to take place until after a general election, which must take place by June. Chilcot had delayed Mr. Brown's attendance in order to avoid, he said, turning the inquiry into a platform for party politics.

But the Prime Minister's attendance has been brought forward after mounting pressure from opposition parties.

"This was the most disastrous decision taken by this government, a decision in which Gordon Brown was not only in the room, but signed all the checks," Nick Clegg, leader of opposition party the Liberal Democrats, spoke to the British media. "So it's right that he goes to the inquiry and does so before people make up their own mind.

Political analysts warn that the timing of Mr. Brown's appearance will be unwelcome for many in his Labor party - forcing the party to revisit an issue that was damaging in the last election.

But shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Brown was himself responsible for the timing of his appearance, accusing the Prime Minister of dragging out the inquiry.

"It is entirely Gordon Brown's own fault that this is now happening in the run-up to the general election," he said. "Because we asked, and other parties asked, three years ago - three and a half years ago - for the setting up of the Iraq Inquiry."

The Iraq Inquiry has been set up to consider Britain's involvement in Iraq from 2001 to July 2009. It covers the run-up to the conflict, military action, and its aftermath.