Mr Hoon also expressed regret over the government's claim in the run-up to war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which, he now accepts, turned out to be false. He said he had "gradually come to the acceptance" the weapons did not exist. But he insisted the government had acted in good faith.
He still does not understand why the intelligence proved to be false. "I've been present at a number of meetings where the intelligence community was fixed, and looked in the eye and asked are you absolutely sure about this? And the answer came back 'Yes, absolutely sure'."
Mr Hoon added: "I saw intelligence from the first time I came into office, in May 1999 - week in, week out - that said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ... I have real difficulty in understanding why it was, over such a long period of time, we were told this and, moreover, why we acted upon it."
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
On the question of an apology, [Hoon] says: "That's the whole thing about apologising, and saying we were wrong. - it's quite hard. You can say "it did not turn out as we expected" and "we made some bad calls", but at the end of the day I defy anyone to to go through what we went through and come to a different conclusion".
In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."...
The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.
It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.
Thursday February 20  ... John Scarlett, chairman of the JIC.. had come to brief me...
The presentation was impressive in its integrity and shorn of the political slant with which No 10 encumbers any intelligence assessment. My conclusion at the end of an hour is that Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.
Wednesday March 5: ...I saw Tony [Blair] privately shortly after we left the chamber. I started by observing that he'd gone out on a limb and the first piece of advice that I would offer is that he had to stop climbing further out on it, especially on Friday when Hans Blix presents his next report to the UN. "Britain has got to be seen on-side with Blix." If he needed months, we should be prepared to give him until autumn.
Tony was quite frank that he could not deliver that: "I don't know if I could do that. Left to himself, Bush would have gone to war in January. No, not January, but back in September."...
The most revealing exchange came when we talked about Saddam's arsenal. I told him, "It's clear from the private briefing I have had that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in a sense of weapons that could strike at strategic cities..." ...
There were two distinct elements to this exchange that sent me away deeply troubled. The first was that the timetable to war was plainly not driven by the progress of the UN weapons inspections. Tony made no attempt to pretend that what Hans Blix might report would make any difference to the countdown to invasion.
The second troubling element to our conversation was that Tony did not try to argue me out of the view that Saddam did not have real weapons of mass destruction that were designed for strategic use against city populations and capable of being delivered with reliability over long distances. I had now expressed that view to both the chairman of the JIC and to the prime minister and both had assented in it.
There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
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