Blair sounds warning on Iran

Last Updated: Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 00:48

London: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
told Britain`s Iraq war inquiry that the world had to use
force if needed to curb Iran`s nuclear drive and expressed
regret at the death toll from the 2003 conflict.

Blair also said US President Barack Obama`s approach
to Tehran was failing during his second appearance before the
inquiry.

The former premier, now Middle East peace envoy, was
at his most animated when talking yesterday about Iran`s
influence in the region, which he condemned as "negative" and
"destabilising".

"Iraq is one part of a far bigger picture and right
across that region, people are facing that struggle," he said.

"This is a looming and coming challenge," he said. "At
some point, we`ve got to get our head out of the sand.

"The West has got to get out of this wretched posture
of apology for believing we are causing what these Iranians
are doing, or what these extremists are doing. We are not."

He said Obama`s appeal to Iran in his 2009 Cairo
speech had got nowhere.

"They carry on with the terrorism, they carry on with
the destabilisation, they carry on with the nuclear weapons,"
he said.

"They`ll carry on doing it unless they are met by the
requisite determination and if necessary, force."

An emotional Blair addressed the condemnation he faced
following his first hearing last January when he said he had
"no regret" about removing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"That was taken as my meaning that I had no regrets
about the loss of life and that was never my meaning or my
intention," he said.

"I wanted to make that clear that of course I regret
deeply and profoundly the loss of life, whether from our own
armed forces, those of other nations, the civilians who helped
people in Iraq or the Iraqis themselves."

His words sparked an angry response from the packed
public gallery, where relatives of some of the 179 British
soldiers killed in Iraq were sitting.

"Your lies killed my son, I hope you can live with
yourself," shouted Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon
was killed in 2006 while serving in Basra, as Blair left the
hearing.

Outside the central London venue, dozens of anti-war
demonstrators protested.

The inquiry, aimed at learning lessons from the Iraq
war, was launched after the withdrawal of British troops from
the country in July 2009. Blair, who was prime minister from
1997 to 2007, has been its star witness.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 00:48

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