Former prime minister Tony Blair appeared at the Chilcot Iraq War Inquiry and answered questions for six hours. Invited by the chairman to express regret for leading Britain into war, Mr Blair replied, “Responsibility, but not regret, for removing Saddam Hussein.”

In his first State of the Union message to the US Congress, President Obama said his priority would now be job creation; he also announced a three-year budget freeze from which only defence, national security and personal entitlements would be exempted.

In London a conference on the future of Afghanistan, called by prime minister Gordon Brown, was attended by 60 countries led by President Karsai and US Secretary of State Clinton. The focus was on preparing the Afghan army and police to take over security responsibilities from US and NATO forces.

Bomb attacks on the centre of Baghad continued with three leading hotels as targets, increasing concern about conditions for the impending parliamentary elections.

In Northern Ireland the power-sharing Catholic and Protestant political parties were unable to agree on arrangements for the devolution of police and justice matters despite the presence of the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.