Peace activists, left politicians and academics have united to condemn a London university's decision to invite former prime minister Tony Blair to speak at a "security and resilience" event next week.
The former PM is scheduled to give the keynote address at the inaugural conference of University College London's Institute for Security and Resilience Studies (ISRS), a body alleged to have close links to the arms industry, on Tuesday.
Also on the panel will be Education Secretary Michael Gove MP and former home secretary and arch-Blairite John Reid.
In an open letter sent to the college's management this week, public figures including Tony Benn, John Pilger, Jeremy Corbyn MP and leading academics have called on the institution to withdraw the invitation, arguing that Blair is a war criminal and therefore not fit to address the event.
In the letter, which has been backed by thousands of campaigners, they said: "We note with great concern that you have invited former prime minister Tony Blair to speak at the inaugural conference of the Institute for Security and Resilience on November 13.
"Mr Blair took our country to war against Iraq in flagrant violation of the UN Charter and in doing so committed the international crime of aggression.
"Mr Blair was explicitly warned by Lord Goldsmith of the illegality of such a war and that he risked being prosecuted for this offence. As a result of the war, up to a million innocent Iraqis were killed.
"A leading education centre should not be seen to endorse such behaviour."
A UCL spokesman said: "This event is being held under the auspices of the ISRS, an independent research institute and not-for-profit company.
"It is affiliated to UCL in a manner similar to other organisations such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
"They are responsible for the conference and no funding, facilities or accommodation for the conference have been requested from or are being provided by UCL. The conference is not taking place at UCL.
"UCL is an institution that values freedom of speech highly and encourages the widest possible expression of differing views within the law. We do not operate a policy of barring speakers with controversial views.
"This does not imply institutional endorsement or disagreement of any views expressed."
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