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Miliband: Iraq war won Britain respect

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has claimed that UK’s involvement in the Iraq war has earned it respect in the Middle East.

Giving evidence to the public inquiry into Britain’s role in the war on Monday, Miliband insisted that many Arab countries now respected Britain more for following through on threats of military force in Iraq.

“Even those who disagree with it (the war) would say to me, ‘you’ve sent a message that when you say something you actually mean it. And if you say something’s a last chance it really is a last chance’.”

Miliband also claimed that the UK is now in a “stronger position,” believing that UK decisions on Iraq have not “undermined our relationships or our ability to do business” in the region.

The top official meanwhile alleged that “many Iraqis” view Britain as having been instrumental in “freeing the country from a tyranny that is bitterly remembered.”

This is while according to polls conducted by The Arab American Institute and the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 2007 and 2006, the majority of people in the Middle East and Europe viewed the war negatively and believed that the world was safer before the Iraq War and the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Miliband, who was a junior education minister in Tony Blair’s government at the time of the 2003 invasion, was not directly involved in the events leading up to the occupation.

But the foreign secretary — seen as a potential successor to Gordon Brown as leader of the Labor party — has repeatedly backed Britain’s decision to invade Iraq.

He claims that the war was necessary because the United Nations’ efforts had been “feeble” in trying to disarm Saddam.

He also urged the government to not be afraid of similar actions in the future stressing that Britain must remain a major player in international affairs.

Miliband was the last senior politician to appear at Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry before the election, which is expected on May 6.

The five-person panel, which was set up to learn the lessons of the conflict, has so far heard testimonies from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former prime minister Tony Blair, former foreign secretary Jack Straw, current MI6 intelligence agency chief John Sawers, head of Britain’s military Jock Stirrup and a host of ministers and government officials.

According to data compiled by the London-based Opinion Research Business and its research partner in Iraq, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies, the Iraq war has left more than one million Iraqis dead.

Moreover, a fifth of Iraqi households have lost at least one family member due to the conflict.

The United Nations estimates that the number of displaced persons in Iraq stands at more than four million.

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