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Hoon: Blair delayed Iraq military planning

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 19 January 2010

Geoff Hoon today became the first of Tony Blair's cabinet ministers to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the war in Iraq.

The former defence secretary admitted that even six months before the invasion in 2003, Tony Blair had prevented defence chiefs from starting preparation for military action.

He told the inquiry that as early as April 2002, when he visited President Bush in Texas, Tony Blair had a list of three military options in his pocket: Britain might offer use of bases only, air and sea support only, or a fully armed division of troops.

But the prime minister did not want the Ministry of Defence to start full preparations for conflict. Hoon said Downing Street had been worried that a military build-up could undermine diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis through the UN.

In earlier evidence, the then head of the armed forces, Lord Boyce, said Geoff Hoon had been holding up preparations for war like ordering additional body armour. Geoff Hoon told the inquiry that was Tony Blair's fault.

For more Channel 4 News coverage of Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war
- Iraq inquiry: day by day
- No Blair 'blood undertaking' to fight in Iraq
- Iraq inquiry: Alastair Campbell quizzed
- Iraq inquiry: seats ballot for Blair
- Iraq inquiry: Chilcot defends questioning

Only two weeks ago Hoon was trying to bring down the prime minister. Today he said that Gordon Brown, as chancellor, had made unwise raids on the defence budget which had hit equipment now needed in Afghanistan.

Geoff Hoon acknowledged that many troops went to Iraq in the wrong clothes and boots. He said that was down to decisions and priorities expressed by the military.

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