UK families of Iraq War dead threaten legal action over inquiry delay

LONDON - Families of British soldiers killed following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 threatened on Thursday to take legal action unless a long-awaited report from a public inquiry into the war is published, the Daily Mail newspaper reported.

Lawyers representing 29 families have given the inquiry, set up six years ago to learn lessons from the conflict, two more weeks to give a publication date by the end of the year or they will take the issue to London's High Court.

"There have been outrageous delays to date and it seems as though those delays would simply be interminable," Matthew Jury, the lawyer representing the families, told BBC radio. "The families are not content to simply wait forever for the inquiry to give a publication date and if (inquiry head John Chilcot) does not impose a timetable ... they will be seeking judicial redress."

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered the inquiry, headed by former civil servant Chilcot, in 2009 and it was initially expected to take only a year to finish.

Its report is expected to shed light on how the then Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to support the US-led war in which 179 British service personnel were killed.

In February, Chilcot told a parliamentary committee he could not say when the report will be completed because of its complexity and the need to obtain responses from people criticised in the report.

He wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron in June to say only when all these responses had been submitted and evaluated "will I be able to write to you with a realistic timetable for completion".

Cameron responded by saying he was "fast losing patience"with the process. "What Sir John doesn't understand is the strength of feeling amongst the bereaved. We want closure on this, it has to be done fair, it has to be done right but he's had time enough now," Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in Iraq in 2003.

However, he said he doubted if the report would provide any immediate resolution as to the legality of the conflict which was opposed by many Britons.

Jeremy Corbyn, a leading candidate to lead the Labour Party once headed by Blair, has said he believed the conflict was illegal and Blair should be tried for war crimes if it was shown he had broken international law.