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Blair defends Iraq war, even without WMD

Published on 13/12/2009

London- Britain would have backed the invasion of Iraq even if it had been known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), former British premier Tony Blair said Saturday.

Blair, who is to appear before a long-awaited official Iraq war inquiry early next year, said London would have used other ways to justify its support for the 2003 US-led war to oust Saddam.

"I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat," he told the BBC.

"I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons still in charge but it’s incredibly difficult," he added, according to comments released before the programme was broadcast.

He added: "It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one, and because you’d had 12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject, he used chemical weapons on his own people – so this was obviously the thing that was upper most in my mind."

Blair, who controversially backed then US president George W. Bush in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, accepted that families of those who died blamed him, but insisted relatives of soldiers could be proud of their sacrifice.

"You know there are parents who feel very very deeply angry and resentful and believe that the war was not worth it," he said.

But he added: "It’s also important to understand that many of those who are in the armed forces .. they are very often proud of what their child has done and proud of the cause they fought in, so you’ve got to be."

The former premier also stressed the importance of his Christian faith — and justified why he did not convert to Catholicism until after he left office in 2007.

"There would have been endless hassle," he said.

"Maybe I should just have done it but, to be frank, you have got so much going on as prime minister and there are so many issues you are having to deal with, that you really wonder whether it’s a great idea to put the whole Catholic versus the established church thing into it.

"I had enough controversy to deal with."

Blair is expected to appear before the so-called Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war — which opened last month, after almost all British forces left the country summer — early in the new year, possibly in January.