Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Blix says US troops could stay in Iraq to protect oil supplies

AFP , SYDNEY

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday he feared the US had a secret plan to keep troops in Iraq for an extended period.

Blix, who led a fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and argued against the 2003 US-led invasion, said it was possible that Washington wanted to stay in Iraq to ensure the safety of oil supplies.

"One fear I would have is that the US has a hidden thought to remain in Iraq," Blix said.

"One reason why they wanted in was that they felt they must leave Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War in 1991, they left their troops in Saudi Arabia to protect pipelines," he explained.

"And when they felt they could no longer stay in Saudi Arabia, Iraq was the next best place because it was more secularized than Saudi Arabia and had the second biggest oil reserves in the region," Blix said.

Blix said that by staying in Iraq, the US military would also be able to keep a close eye on neighboring Iran -- a country he said was treated differently to another state with nuclear ambitions, North Korea.

"North Korea is promised diplomatic relations with the US and Japan if they abandon [their] nuclear program and they're also promised a guarantee against attacks ... Iran has nothing of that," he said.

Blix, who is in Australia to receive the Sydney Peace Prize, was also critical of Australia's military role in Iraq, saying its 500 troops served only a "political and symbolic value."

In an interview with the Australian newspaper, Blix said the war was a "disaster" and the only positive was the elimination of tyrannical leader Saddam Hussein.

"The aims of the war were, first of all, to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that did not exist; secondly, to establish a democracy -- and what they ended up with was anarchy; and thirdly, they wanted to weed out al-Qaeda, which were not there but which came there," Blix said.

"What it goes to show is that although tyranny is horrible, anarchy can be even worse than tyranny," he added.

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