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Carter: Blair following Bush into Iraq 'tragedy for the world'
Agence France-Presse
Published: Saturday May 19, 2007
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Former US president Jimmy Carter on Saturday attacked outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair for his "blind" support of the Iraq war, describing it as a "major tragedy for the world".

In an interview with BBC radio, Carter was asked how he would describe Blair's attitude to US President George W. Bush. He replied: "Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient.

"I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world."

Blair, who arrived in Baghdad Saturday on an unannounced visit, has suffered politically and personally since declaring his support for Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

His backing of the war despite massive public opposition divided his governing Labour Party while the absence of weapons of mass destruction -- the basis for war -- and apparent manipulation of intelligence eroded trust.

There was further discontent last year when he joined Bush in refusing to back international calls on Israel to stop its bombing of Lebanon.

Carter, US president from 1977 to 1981, suggested Blair could have made a crucial difference to US political and public opinion by distancing himself during the build-up to the March 2003 invasion.

"I can't say it would have made a definitive difference. But it would certainly have assuaged the problems that have arisen lately," he said.

"One of the defences of the Bush administration, in America and worldwide -- it's not been successful in my opinion -- has been that, okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us.

"I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted."

Carter has long been a critic of the war and has previously expressed his disappointment that Blair did not use his influence more wisely.

The former US leader, whose recent book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" criticises his country's and Israeli policy, said the Iraq war had exacerbated tensions in the region and caused "deep schisms on a global basis".

But while bemoaning a lack of progress on the "road map" to peace in the Middle East, Carter, who brokered the Camp David agreement between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin, said the agreement was still viable.

On Iraq, he said he hoped the unpopularity of the "unwarranted invasion" in Britain and the United States would lead to a withdrawal of troops.

But Gordon Brown, who is due to take over from Blair as prime minister on June 27, has said it would be "wrong" to pull out the country's troops immediately as Iraqis were assuming more control of security.

Blair made his last trip to Washington as premier on Thursday. Both he and Bush were defiant to the last over Iraq and said history would be the ultimate judge of their decision to invade.