The invasion of Iraq was of questionable legitimacy, according to Britain's ambassador to the United Nations at the time. Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the official war inquiry he believed the military action was legal under international law, but it did not have majority backing in the UN.
I regard 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, he said.
Sir Jeremy said he warned the Foreign Office that he was prepared to resign as ambassador to the UN in New York unless there was at least one new Security Council resolution justifying military action.
He said that he did not believe that Britain and the United States could simply say that Iraq was in breach of old resolutions dating back to the 1991 Gulf War requiring Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction.
I regarded it as necessary politically and legally to have a new resolution - or at least one new resolution. There had to be a new declaration by the Security Council that Iraq was in material breach, he said. ”Because there were different views in Washington as to what they were trying to do with this draft resolution, I wanted to make it clear that if this was just a Potemkin (artificial) exercise in going to the United Nations, I didn't want to be a part of it.
Therefore, I said I might not be able to continue as ambassador in New York if there was no further updated basis for Iraq as being in material breach.
In November 2002 the Security Council did pass resolution 1441, which provided for the return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors and was subsequently used by Britain and the US as justification for the invasion.
Sir Jeremy went on to criticise the Bush administration's pro-war stance for damaging British attempts to build international agreement on how to deal with Iraq.
He said in his statement: ”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”.