Blair: I'm not to blame for Chilcot delays

Tony Blair at Davos Image copyright EPA

Tony Blair has said he wants the Chilcot Report published as soon as possible and that he has played no part in any delays.

Speaking to me exclusively at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the former Prime Minister admitted he was frustrated that the report was not yet published but said that no pressure should be put on Sir John Chilcot.

He said that the publication would be "an opportunity" for him to explain why he believed the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do.

Mr Blair said anyone blaming him for the delay was "completely wrong" and that any issues concerning the letters between him and President George Bush had been dealt with "a few months ago".

'Politicised'

Mr Blair said he wanted the letters to be published in as full a form as possible. He didn't want "just the gist" of them coming out.

"We're in the run up to an election and this is becoming a politicised issue," he told me.

"Twelve years on from the decisions there are clear lessons from the conflict, we need to apply those lessons."

Turning to the problems of religious extremism, Mr Blair said intervention was sometimes necessary in countries suffering terrorist atrocities such as Syria.

I asked him if that could mean troops on the ground, and he said that although it doesn't always have to be British forces, it was important to support the "fight" against extremism.

"We are not going to beat IS [so called Islamic State] with air power alone," he said.

Respecting faith

On the Paris attacks, Mr Blair said much of the extremist sentiment was being imported from across the Middle East which was why it was so important to tackle the issues.

Mr Blair argued that although people may be "uncomfortable" when offence is caused to religions, it was the rule of law that should decide where the boundaries are drawn.

He said that education with a strong emphasis on integration and respecting all faiths was also one of the key ways of tackling radicalism.

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