Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Blair lacked critical thinking: Blix

AFP , LONDON

British Prime Minister Tony Blair lacked "critical thinking" in the run-up to the Iraq war, former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said in an interview published yesterday.

Speaking from his home in Stockholm, Blix told the London-based Guardian daily that he was not accusing Blair of bad faith in taking Britain to war, but added: "What I am saying is there was a lack of critical thinking."

The Guardian said that in extracts it published of Blix's memoirs, Blair emerged as a man convinced "to the point of credulity" by intelligence reports of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and as a leader fuelled by a religious enthusiasm to do battle with evil.

Blix told the Guardian that it had seemed at times the UK and US were acting like "witch doctors."

Blair, the closest ally of US President George W. Bush in the Iraq crisis, cited Saddam Hussein's pursuit of banned weapons as the main justification for taking Britain to war in March last year.

The failure to find such weapons has continued to dog the prime minister and prompted accusations that he took the nation into the conflict on a false pretense.

In his memoirs, Blix described Blair in the month before the war as saying "the intelligence was clear that Saddam had reconstituted his weapons of mass destruction program."

"Gradually [the British and US governments] ought to have realized there was nothing. Gradually they would have found that the defectors' information was not reliable," Blix added.

French President Jacques Chirac by contrast, said that the West's intelligence services, including his own, were "intoxicating each other;" believed that banned weapons did not exist in Iraq; and predicted that a war would be the worst outcome, inflaming anti-western feeling among Muslims, according to Blix, cited by the Guardian.

In one of his most detailed defenses of his decision to take Britain into the Iraq conflict, Blair on Friday insisted that it was the right move given the threat from global terrorism.

But Blix asked how the Iraqis would have been able to "prove a negative" -- proving they did not have weapons the US and Britain said they possessed.

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