British Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that the war in Iraq has badly eroded public trust in him, tackling one of his most difficult obstacles ahead of a May 5 general election.
In an interview with the GMTV television station, Blair, who announced the election date on Tuesday, was asked whether his backing for the March 2003 US-led war had done more to erode public trust in him than anything else.
"Yes, I would accept that," he said.
"I think trust is also about the things we promised in 1997 (when he was first elected), but you are right, Iraq has been a difficult issue for me," Blair said.
"You learn something in government, and that is sometimes decisions come on your desk and whichever way you go there isn't a fence to sit on."
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Blair argued strongly that Britain should support the conflict due to the immediate danger posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's alleged stocks of weapons of mass destruction.
None were subsequently found after Saddam was deposed, leading to accusations that Blair misled a skeptical nation into war, something he has vehemently denied.
"With Iraq I had to decide, would the world be better without Saddam or with him? In the end I think it's better he is out but I have never disrespected someone with a different point of view," Blair said on Wednesday.
"It's up to people to judge and they will have to make a judgment about it."
Blair will be seeking a third consecutive term in office for his Labour Party on May 5, and polls indicate he is on course to do so, albeit with a reduced majority in parliament.
In a separate interview, one of Blair's most senior ministers insisted that Iraq would only be a marginal factor when Britons decided which way to vote.
Issues such as the economy and the state-run National Health Service (NHS) would determine how "90-odd percent" of people would vote, Health Secretary John Reid told BBC radio.
"The biggest issues by far are the economy, the NHS, immigration, law and order, and about less than 10 percent Iraq," he said.
© 2005 Agence France-Presse