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Former UK foreign minister denies ignoring legal advice against Iraq invasion

[JURIST] Former UK Foreign Ministry secretary Jack Straw [parliamentary profile] testified [transcript, PDF; video] to the Iraq Inquiry [official website] on Monday that he did not ignore legal advice that the 2003 Iraq invasion lacked basis in international law. During Straw's second appearance before the public inquiry, he explained that he noted but did not accept the advice of former chief legal adviser to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) [official website] Sir Michael Wood [UN profile, PDF] because he believed that Wood's January 2003 advice contradicted his prior counsel. Straw also characterized the decision by former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [professional profile] that a second UN resolution was unnecessary as:

not a decision on the merits of taking military action? it was a question as to whether we could consider those merits. The two are different. Advice that we had a legal option to 6 take military action then allowed us to consider the moral and political case for that military action.

Wood told the Iraq Inquiry last month that he had advised the Foreign Ministry that the 2003 Iraq invasion was illegal [JURIST report]. Wood testified that the invasion was "contrary to international law" because it was never authorized by the UN Security Council [official website], and that Straw had rejected his advice at the time. Earlier this month, the Iraq Inquiry released [JURIST report] a 2002 letter [text, PDF] from Goldsmith to former secretary of defense Geoffrey Hoon [personal profile] in which he warned the Cabinet that the Iraq invasion was not supported by international law. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism over the legality of the Iraq War. In testimony to the Iraq Inquiry, former UK international development secretary Clare Short said that Blair was "misleading" and "deceitful" [JURIST report] with the Cabinet and parliament regarding the Iraq invasion.

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