ROME - An Italian minister broke ranks with his pro-war government on Iraq, telling a newspaper that last year's invasion could have been a mistake, and was in any case not the best thing to have done.
"The war may have been a mistake. Perhaps there were ways it could have been avoided," said European Affairs Minister Rocco Buttiglione in an interview published Thursday by the daily newspaper Il Messaggero.
|Poland Was 'Taken for a Ride' About Iraq's WMD: President
WARSAW - March 18 - Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that his country had been "taken for a ride" about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"That they deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride," Kawsniewski said Thursday.
He argued however that it made no sense to pull US-led coalition troops out of Iraq.
Poland heads up a 9,000-strong multinational force patrolling a swathe of Iraq south of Baghdad.
"What is certain is that it wasn't the best thing to do," he added.
"Terrorism cannot be defeated only by the force of arms, and if we give the impression that weapons play the dominant role, we will only stir up nationalist feelings among the Arabs against us," he added.
The statement, the first apparent crack in the unity of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Iraq, came two days before the first anniversary of the US-led invasion, which Berlusconi has strongly backed.
It also came a week after the devastating bomb attacks in Madrid, which killed over 200 people and injured around 1,500.
Buttiglione said he didn't believe that democracy in the Middle East could be achieved through war or because Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been toppled.
"Arab democracy will not be born through the force of arms or because we have defeated Saddam," he said.
"It can be achieved through a policy of peace, cultural exchanges, inter-religious dialogue and development aid," he said.
He added that he favored a stronger UN role in Iraq in order to give legitimacy to the country's interim Governing Council and the foreign military presence.
Buttiglione is a member of the Italian Christian Democratic Party, one of the partners in Berlusconi's coalition government.
Italy has some 3,000 troops in Iraq.
© 2004 AFP