September 1, 2010 / 2:46 AM / in 7 years

UK's Blair says did not foresee Iraq "nightmare"

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday he could have not have imagined what he called the nightmare that unfolded in Iraq but still did not regret joining the U.S.-led invasion.

In extracts of his memoirs released before the book’s publication, Blair echoed previous statements that the 2003 invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein posed a threat and could have developed weapons of mass destruction.

"I can’t regret the decision to go to war ... I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded," said Blair, referring to the years of political and sectarian bloodshed in Iraq that followed the invasion.

"I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right."

Blair was the closest ally of former U.S. President George W. Bush over the decision to invade Iraq.

The decision was the most controversial of Blair’s 10-year premiership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour Party and accusations he deceived Britons over his reasons for war when weapons of mass destruction were not found.

"I feel words of condolence and sympathy to be entirely inadequate," Blair wrote of the war’s casualties.

"They have died and I, the decision-maker in the circumstances that led to their deaths, still live."

Blair, now an envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers -- the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, was Labour’s longest-serving prime minister, winning three consecutive elections before stepping down in 2007.

His book "A Journey", which he calls "something of a letter (extended!) to the country I love", is expected to generate huge interest when it arrives in shops on Wednesday, having already made it into Amazon’s top 20 best-selling titles.

He has said he is donating the reported 4.6 million pound ($7.09 million) advance he received for his memoirs as well as proceeds from sales to a charity supporting serving and former members of the military.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; editing by Ralph Gowling)



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