US was 'hell-bent' on Iraq invasion, Greenstock says

The administration of George W. Bush was so dismissive of efforts to get UN approval for an invasion of Iraq that it effectively scuttled attempts at making the war legitimate, a former British ambassador to the UN says.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was the UK's ambassador to the UN from 1998 to 2003, told Britain's Iraq war inquiry that the Bush administration was "decidedly unhelpful" as he struggled to gain support from UN member countries for a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

The UN passed resolution 1441 in November, 2002, mandating the return of weapons inspectors into Iraq. But the US and its allies invaded Iraq in March, 2003, without a second resolution that Britain had sought, which would have authorized the invasion. As a result, Greenstock said, the war was of "questionable legitimacy."

"I regarded our invasion of Iraq, our participation in the military action in Iraq in March 2003 as legal but of questionable legitimacy in that it did not have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of member states, or even perhaps of the majority of people inside the UK," Greenstock said.

“The UK’s attempt to reconstitute a consensus had only a slim prospect of success, made slimmer by the recognition by anyone else following events closely that the United States was not proactively supportive of the UK’s efforts and seemed to be preparing for conflict whatever the UK decided to do," the Times of London quoted Greenstock as saying.

"The lack of a second resolution has led many critics of military action to argue that the invasion was illegal under international law - an allegation the British Government has always denied," reports the Daily Telegraph.

The former ambassador said the second UN resolution never happened because the international community believed the US was 'hell bent on the use of force' regardless of the UN and world opinion, the Associated Press reports.

Greenstock told the inquiry he was so alarmed at the lack of US co-operation that he threatened to resign over the matter.

The Chilcot Inquiry, as the British inquiry is known, heard on Wednesday that then-Prime Minister Tony Blair was told ten days before the invasion that Iraq likely didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and almost certainly had no means to deliver them, but Blair continued to insist all the same that Iraq was building WMDs.

On Thursday, Britain's former ambassador to Washington told the inquiry that then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was already focused on the possibility of an Iraqi link to 9/11 on the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The inquiry will hear from Blair early next year. It is expected to release a report on the Iraq invasion by late 2010.