Former Australian prime minister John Howard, who joined forces with the US and the UK in invading Iraq, has staunchly defended his decision to take his country to war, and dismissed suggestions that he, Tony Blair and George W Bush should face a war crimes tribunal.
Responding to the Chilcot report, Howard told an interview with Lateline how deeply he was involved in the key decision-making to enter the Iraq war. "I thought about the morality of this very, very, very deeply and I thought it was the right thing to do," he said.
He also ridiculed suggestions from an independent MP and former intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie that he, Blair and Bush should face a war crimes tribunal, ABC News reported. "I think it's an absurd proposition."
Howard, who came out strongly supporting Blair, also maintained that his decision to send Australian troops into the conflict was justified at the time. Sir John Chilcot's report, which was released to the public on 6 July found that the then prime minister Blair had led the UK into a war based on flawed intelligence in 2003.
The Aussie former leader however said that while he respected the findings in the report, he did not agree with all of them. "There was no lie. There were errors in intelligence, but there was no lie," he said.
On the findings that there was no evidence to support claims that intelligence used to justify the war on Iraq had doctored by Western governments, he said: "The joint intelligence committee, which is the broad equivalent in the United Kingdom of the Office of National Assessments in Australia, accepted ownership of the dossier and agreed its content."
"There was no evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that Number 10 improperly influenced the text," he added.
He said that while he was sorry for those who had suffered as a result of the conflict in Iraq, he was justified in making the decisions he did in 2003 because they were informed by the best intelligence available at the time.
No reason not to believe Blair
Howard also said that despite the Chilcot report's criticism of Blair, he agreed with the UK prime minister's decision at the time. "You've got to remember this particular conclusion of Chilcot is an expression of opinion based on his retrospective - subsequent, rather, after the event judgments of events," he explained.
He added: "I shared the view that Tony Blair expressed, otherwise my government may have taken a different approach. He genuinely held the views that he expressed as far as I could see and I have no reason to disbelieve him."
He continued: "I always found him [Blair] a thoroughly honourable and honest person to deal with."
The former prime minister also dismissed claims that all of the deaths that occurred in Iraq since 2003 are directly the result of the intervention. "I think a lot of the chaos now is a result of a premature American withdrawal."
Australia sent about 2,000 troops to the US-led coalition from March 2003. No Australian military personnel were killed in action, although many were wounded and a handful died in accidents, AFP reports.