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Candidates to lead UK's Iraq war

world Updated: May 23, 2010 02:44 IST

AP
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Two of the front-runners to head Britain's Labour Party sought to move on from divisive recent history on Saturday by renouncing the Iraq war entered by their former leader, Tony Blair.

Lawmaker Ed Balls said the 2003 invasion was wrong, while rival Ed Miliband said the conflict had destroyed trust in the party. "It was a mistake, it was an error. It wasn't just thousands of people (who) lost their lives, it is also millions of people who lost trust in us because they didn't think that we did it in the right way," Balls said. "There weren't weapons of mass destruction, the evidence wasn't sound, so we should say loud and clear, in retrospect, we got it wrong."

Miliband said the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had led to a loss of trust in Labour, which had come to power in a 1997 election landslide but lost control of government this month after losing May 6 national elections.

"We went to war on a particular basis which turned out not to be vindicated over weapons of mass destruction," he said. "There is no doubt that for a lot of people that caused a big loss of trust for us."

Neither Miliband nor Balls was a legislator at the time of the invasion, which was backed by a majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons.

Ed Miliband's brother David Miliband _ who is also running for the Labour leadership _ warned the party not to let Iraq become an issue in the campaign.

"While Iraq was a source of division in the past, it doesn't need to be a source of division in the future," he said. Unlike his brother, David Miliband was a member of Parliament in 2003, and voted in favor of war.

"I said during the (national) election campaign that I thought it was time to move on," David Miliband said.

Six lawmakers so far have announced they are running to succeed Gordon Brown, who stepped down as party leader and prime minister last week to make way for the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. A new Labour leader will be declared in September.