Published on Sunday, February 8, 2004 by Reuters
Blix Says Bush, Blair Exaggerated Iraq War Case
LONDON - Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix accused London and Washington on Sunday of exaggerating the threat of Iraqi weapons to justify waging war and said they should have been more sincere.
He said he would not accuse President Bush or Prime Minister Tony Blair of acting in bad faith as they made their arguments about the threat posed by Iraq and its alleged banned weapons.
But he added: "The intention was to dramatize it just as the vendors of some merchandise are trying to exaggerate the importance of what they have.
"From politicians, our leaders in the Western world, I think we expect more than that, a bit more sincerity," Blix told BBC television.
His comments will fan the flames of arguments in the United States and Britain over the reasons for ousting Saddam Hussein.
Nearly 10 months after the Iraqi leader was toppled, no biological or chemical weapons -- the reasons Blair, like Bush, gave for war -- have been found.
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.
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 over Iraqi weapons.
Bush has set up his own commission to investigate alleged flaws in the intelligence used to justify military action, as the issue climbs the political agenda in an election year there.
London and Washington went to war in March last year, after 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.
"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."
Blix said the intelligence community had to shoulder some of the blame too.
"They clearly believed too much in what defectors said," he said. "They were relying upon defectors and much of what they got there was wrong."
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said last year that supposed banned weapons were just one of several reasons for invading Iraq and the decision to stress the arms threat was taken for "bureaucratic" reasons in order to help justify war.
Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd