Blair criticises Obama's Iran policy
Former British premier Tony Blair criticised US President Barack Obama on Friday for being too soft on Iran, urging the West to deal with a "looming and coming challenge" from the Islamic republic.
Speaking at Britain's inquiry into the war in Iraq, he rejected suggestions from the panel that the 2003 US-led invasion there had actually empowered neighbouring Iran and encouraged it to pursue its nuclear programme.
"I say this to you with all of the passion I possibly can -- at some point the West has to get out of what I think is a wretched policy or posture of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing," he said.
"We are not. The fact is they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they'll carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and if necessary, force."
Blair said that in his current job as a Middle East peace envoy he could see the "impact and the influence of Iran everywhere."
"It is negative, destabilising, it is supportive of terrorist groups and it is doing everything it can to impede progress in the Middle East peace process," he added.
Blair cited the example of a speech by Obama in Egypt two years ago in which he reached out to the Muslim world.
"President Obama -- not President Bush -- goes in March 2009 to Cairo, right in the heart of Islam. He makes a speech where he says effectively 'put aside the Bush era, I'm now offering the hand of friendship, you, Iran can come into partnership, you are an ancient, proud civilisation," Blair said.
"What's the response he gets? They carry on with the terrorism, they carry on with the destabilisation, they carry on with the nuclear weapons.
"At some point we have to get our head out of the sand and understand they are going to carry on with this."
Blair's comments came as Iran began talks in Istanbul with six world powers over its disputed nuclear programme.
© 2011 AFP