Blix says Iraq war stimulated terrorism

Reuters

Wed 13 October, 2004

By Patrick McLoughlin

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had failed tragically in its aim of making the world a safer place and succeeded only in stimulating terrorism.

Blix, in implicit criticism of the main protagonists U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, said on Wednesday the action had also failed to deter any ambitions on the part of Iran or North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.

"The acknowledged gain of the war was that a treacherous and murderous dictator (Saddam Hussein) was removed, but the rest has been tragedy and failure," he told Reuters in an interview.

"It has stimulated terrorism."

Many critics of the invasion argue it opened Iraq to Islamist militants involved in an insurrection against coalition forces, while distracting attention from a campaign against the al-Qaeda group blamed for September, 2001 attacks on the United States.

"Is the world safer? No. It's not safer in Iraq," he said in his native Stockholm. "If North Korea and Iran are contemplating going for weapons of mass destruction, then it hasn't stopped them. It has not solved the Middle East conflict."

OTHER ISSUES NEGLECTED

Blix suggested Washington and London had lost perspective in focusing on Saddam who, it has since emerged, was not involved in developing nuclear arms.

"Of course they were concerned with North Korea and Iran. But...they focused a great deal of their efforts on Iraq while other things were left simmering."

Iran denies U.S. accusations it is developing nuclear arms. Experts say North Korea has an arsenal of between two and nine nuclear bombs.

Blix, who retired from the U.N. last year and now chairs a Swedish-sponsored Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, also

cast doubt on the Iraqi government's comments on Tuesday that U.N. weapons inspectors were welcome to return.

"The Iraqi government would need to offer guarantees of safety," said the 75-year-old former head of the International Atomic En ergy Agency, who led the U.N. inspections team until 2003. "But to go to sites which satellites have already found to be empty is perhaps not meaningful."

Iraqi Science and Technology Minister Rashad Omar issued the invitation after an IAEA report on Monday said neither Baghdad nor Washington appeared to have noticed the disappearance of nuclear equipment and materials once closely monitored by IAEA.