OPINION was split across Oxfordshire in the wake of Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcot Iraq War inquiry yesterday.

The former Prime Minister defended his decision to go to war, at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London.

As protesters demonstrated outside the centre, Mr Blair declared he was right to take action to stop Saddam Hussein, even though the dictator’s supposed weapons of mass destruction turned out not to exist.

He told the inquiry: “The decision I took – and frankly would again – was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view then and that is my view now.”

Dr Hojjat Ramzy, who attends the Stanley Road mosque in East Oxford, said: “It’s very disappointing that Tony Blair has not apologised in any way for his actions because so many innocent people have died as a result of the conflict.

“Many innocent soldiers from this country have also died and I sympathise with their mothers and families.

“The Muslim community in Oxford has been watching the inquiry closely – a lot of people have had their TVs on.”

Mike Bolton, a member of Oxford Stop the War Coalition, said: “Tony Blair has used the Chilcot inquiry to justify his position.

“Now that he has given evidence, the Government will try to draw a line under Iraq but innocent people are still dying as a result of suicide bombings.”

However, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker MBE, who was Chief of Staff of the 8,000-strong 7th Armoured Brigade when the conflict began in 2003, said it was right to invade.

Lt Col Parker, of west Oxfordshire, welcomed Mr Blair to Basra Palace during the Prime Minister’s visit to the city in May 2003, and gave him and his staff a briefing.

He said: “I am a practising Christian and we were morally right to do it.

“It was a disgrace what was happening to the Iraqi people under Saddam. In 2005, I stood at the site of mass graves in southern Iraq.

“It was like the Nazis and morally that had to stop. I do think the war was legal technically.”

Stan White, 77, from Kidlington, served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in the early 1950s and has been selling poppies for more than 40 years.

He said: “I think Tony Blair led us up the garden path on Iraq and I don’t think we should have gone to war there.”

Asked at the end of six hours of testimony by inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, whether he had any regrets, Mr Blair said: “Responsibility but not a regret for removing Saddam Hussein.

“I think that he was a monster. I believe he threatened not just the region but the world. And in the circumstances that we faced then, but I think even if you look back now, it was better to deal with this threat, to remove him from office.”

As he left, another audience member heckled: “You are a liar,” while another added, “And a murderer”.

l A soldier who refused to fight in Afghanistan has pleaded guilty to being absent without leave, his legal representative said.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, of 4 Logistic Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, based at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, could face up to two years in prison.

The 27-year-old, from York, appeared via videolink at the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Glenton left the Army in 2007 after serving with the Royal Logistic Corps in Afghanistan. He handed himself in after two years and six days' absence.

He will be sentenced on March 5 at the Colchester Military Court Centre.