LONDON, July: Britain`s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made a gaffe Wednesday by calling the 2003 Iraq war "illegal" while standing in for Prime Minister David Cameron at the House of Commons for the first time.
Clegg, a long-time opponent of the war, was replacing Cameron at Prime Minister`s Questions, the weekly showpiece question-and-answer session with lawmakers, while the prime minister visited the United States.
In exchanges with Jack Straw of the opposition Labour party, who was foreign secretary when the war began, Clegg called on him to "account for your role in the most disastrous decision of all, which is the illegal invasion of Iraq."
The comment raised eyebrows because Cameron supported the war, as did most of his Conservative party, which is now in a coalition government with Clegg`s Liberal Democrats.
Downing Street insisted the comments were not government policy.
"The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict," its spokesman said.
"But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views."
A public inquiry into the US-led, British-backed Iraq war is taking place in Britain but it is not expected to rule on whether or not the conflict was legal under international law.
BDST: 0946 HRS, July 22, 2010