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British Iraq Inquiry To Meet Bereaved Families

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair could be called to testify.
LONDON (Reuters) -- The British panel holding an official inquiry into the Iraq war will meet families of some of those who lost relatives in the conflict on Octobe 13 to hear their views on how the probe should be conducted.

The five-member inquiry team, headed by former civil servant John Chilcot, was set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June to examine the reasons for Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion and decisions taken after military action began.

The inquiry's work is yet to officially begin, but the panel is to hold a series of meetings with families and veterans who served in Iraq to allow them input on what issues the committee should focus on.

"We said right from the start that one of the inquiry's first priorities was to hear from the families of those who died during the conflict and others from the U.K. who were seriously affected, including those who served in Iraq," Chilcot said.

"It's an important part of our preparations -- we want to know what they think the inquiry's priorities should be and hear about any concerns they may have."

A total of 179 British servicemen and women lost their lives during the six years of combat operations. About 50 families of those who died have said they would like to meet the inquiry team.

A series of meetings will be held in London, Manchester Edinburgh, Bristol, and Belfast, with the first taking place in the capital on October 13.

Chilcot has said the inquiry would last until late next year, at the earliest. That means that its conclusions, which could be politically damaging to the Labour government, will not be published before a national election due by next June.

Chilcot has also promised that a large part of the panel's hearings will be held in public and said that former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took the decision to go to war, would be among those called to give evidence.