Iraqi regime change was not UK priority
Ex-foreign minister Jack Straw told Britain's Iraq war inquiry yesterday that removing Saddam Hussein had never been London's priority, as he gave evidence on the final day of the probe's public hearings.
Straw, who was foreign secretary when Britain joined the US-led invasion in 2003, insisted containment of the Iraqi dictator had been the British government's main goal.
"Containment remained the overall strategy of the government right up to the time when we took the decision to use military action," he said during his third appearance before the official inquiry.
"Regime change was never an objective of the British government," Straw added.
If Saddam had agreed to cooperate and disarm he would have "stayed in post," added the former Labour minister, who stepped down from frontline politics last year after three decades.
Iraq became a burning issue when then US president George W. Bush gave his State of the Union address towards the end of January in 2002, in which he labelled Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil."
Former prime minister Tony Blair last month told the inquiry that the Bush administration was already set on a policy of regime change in Iraq by the time the two leaders met at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas in April 2002.
"It was obviously going to be on the agenda. I was always going to make it clear, I did make it clear, we would be shoulder to shoulder with America," Blair told the inquiry during a second appearance last month.
Since hearings began in central London in November 2009, the panel has heard from more than 120 witnesses in public including former prime ministers Blair and Gordon Brown.