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Blix says Bush, Blair insincere salesmen on Iraq
Updated: 2004-02-09 09:55

The former chief U.N. weapons inspector Sunday likened the use of intelligence by the leaders of Britain and the United States to justify war in Iraq to the tactics of insincere salesmen.

Hans Blix -- who pleaded for more time to search Iraq for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons before a U.S.-led invasion in March -- said the West had a right to expect more from their leaders.

"The intention was to dramatize it (the intelligence) just as the vendors of some merchandise are trying to exaggerate the importance of what they have," Blix told BBC television.

Nearly 10 months after the war none of the biological or chemical weapons cited by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the reason for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq have been found.

"From politicians, our leaders in the Western world, I think we expect more than that, a bit more sincerity," Blix said.

Last month former chief weapons inspector David Kay -- who was tasked with finding such weapons in Iraq after the war ended -- said those who asserted Iraq had weapons of mass destruction "were almost all wrong."

Blix's comments will fan the flames of a debate over whether Bush and Blair misled their peoples by arguing that war was needed to counter a growing threat to international peace from an Iraqi regime armed with weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March killed thousands of Iraqis, led to the deaths of hundreds of Western soldiers, toppled former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, split Western allies along pro- and anti-war fronts, damaged the prestige of the United Nations and has created a sticky problem for U.S. administrators of Iraq now seeking to introduce democracy.

Prior to the war Blair said Iraq posed a "serious and current" threat, that it had continued to produce banned weapons and that it could deploy some of them within 45 minutes.

Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has added to Blair's woes by joining the Labor prime minister's critics.

"It is quite clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction," Cook told Britain's ITV television.

Try as he might, Blair cannot shake off troubles cause by last year's invasion of Iraq.

Last week he bowed to growing pressure and set up an inquiry into possible intelligence failings on Iraqi weapons within hours of a similar U.S. commission called by Bush.

The Bush commission will investigate alleged flaws in the intelligence used to justify military action, but has not been asked to report back until well after his political fate is decided at U.S. presidential elections in November.

Senior British government minister Lord Falconer rebuffed Blix's comment and said Britain's inquiry would provide answers.

"It can look at the whole picture and see what discrepancies there may be between what is found in Iraq and what was said before, how the intelligence was gathered, how it was used," he said.

London and Washington went to war despite failing to secure a U.N. resolution authorizing military action and ignoring pleas from other Security Council members to give Blix's team in Iraq more time to search for weapons of mass destruction.

"We said that we had seen no evidence of any...weapons," Blix said. "We had, I think, issued the correct warnings. Nevertheless, they didn't take them seriously."

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