Bush's UK war-planning partner still insists war of aggression was justified

Former British prime minister Tony Blair said he was "desperately sorry" over the deaths in the Iraq war, in extracts released Tuesday from his memoirs.

Blair said he was "sorry for the lives cut short", but maintained it was right to remove dictator Saddam Hussein from power, in extracts from "A Journey", his account of his decade in office.

He said the aftermath of the 2003 invasion was "terrible" and said he wept over the loss of life.

Blair said he still felt a sense of "anguish" for the relatives of those killed in the conflict.

"The anguish arises from a sense of sadness that goes beyond conventional description or the stab of compassion you feel on hearing tragic news," he wrote.

"Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it.

"I feel desperately sorry for them, sorry for the lives cut short, sorry for the families whose bereavement is made worse by the controversy over why their loved ones died, sorry for the utterly unfair selection that the loss should be theirs."

Blair acknowledges that "we did not anticipate the role of Al-Qaeda or Iran" in post-invasion planning.

He added: "On the basis of what we do know now, I still believe that leaving Saddam in power was a bigger risk to our security than removing him and that, terrible though the aftermath was, the reality of Saddam and his sons in charge of Iraq would at least arguably be much worse."

Blair announced this month he will donate all the proceeds of the autobiography to the Royal British Legion, a charity which helps severely injured war veterans.

According to reports, he received a 4.6-million-pound (5.6-million-euro, 7.2-million-dollar) advance for the book and sales are expected to generate a far bigger sum.

Online seller Amazon said "A Journey" was already ranked 11th on the bestseller list of its British site, although it declined to give any sales figures.

The book hits the shops on Wednesday, though Blair will be in the United States, having been invited to a White House dinner by US President Barack Obama in his role as Middle East peace envoy.

The former premier has pre-recorded his first political television interview since leaving office in 2007, which will be broadcast by the BBC on Wednesday.

After visiting the United States, he will then travel to Ireland for a book signing before returning to Britain for another signing, expected to be surrounded by tight security, on September 8.

Unusually for such a high-profile political autobiography in Britain, the book has not been serialised.