Tony Blair On Chilcot Report: I Was Right To Depose Saddam Hussein

Blair Chilcot Press Conference
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives for a press conference at Admiralty House, London, July 6. Blair has said he was right to take the U.K. to war in Iraq. Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has apologized for mistakes made during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, but has insisted that he was right to take the decision to lead the U.K. to war.

In an emotional press conference following the publication of the Chilcot report into the war on Wednesday, Blair conceded some errors, including that some of the intelligence on which the decision to go to war was based later turned out to be wrong, and that planning for the aftermath of the invasion could have been better.

"For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe," Blair said.

But, he added, he thought removing Saddam Hussein was the right choice, even with hindsight. "I believe I made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it," he said.

He rejected the argument that removing Hussein helped fuel the present chaos in the Middle East, and said that the presence of an internationally recognized government in Iraq has helped it to tackle the huge challenges it faces now.

Chilcot concluded that Blair's government had not exhausted all peaceful options before going to war. On Wednesday, Blair rejected this assessment.

"On March 18, and this is the vital thing to understand… we had come to the point of binary decision," he said. "Right to remove Saddam or not? With America or not?

"The report itself says this was a stark choice and it was. Now the inquiry claims that military action was not a last resort, though it says it might have been necessary later. With respect, I didn't have the option of that delay. I had to decide."

Chilcot also makes a damning assessment of the U.K.'s capacity to plan for the challenges it would face in governing the country after the invasion and in helping to build a new state.

"Our planning proceeded on the basis of those risks of which we were principally warned," Blair said, naming challenges he had prepared for including use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) by Hussein and the potential for humanitarian disaster. But, Blair said, "the real problems were those caused by terrorism," the scale of which could not have been foreseen.

"I do note, nonetheless, that the inquiry fairly and honestly admit that they have not, even after this passage of time, been able to guarantee alternative approaches that would have guaranteed greater success," Blair said.

The report does not make a judgement on the legality of the war, but it questions the process by which legal justification was obtained in the U.K.

"Wherever politics is hotly contested, the law will be also," Blair said, but unequivocally defended the legal justification for war. Still, he said, he did accept that he could have provided his cabinet with more information about how he came to that decision.

In a passionate pitch to the nation, Blair urged Britain to reject the "conspiracy theories" common in modern politics and, however they view the war, at least accept that he embarked upon it "in good faith."

"I only ask with humility that the British people accept that I took this decision because I believed it was the right thing to do, based on the information I had and the threats I perceived," he said.