Dr George Carey rejected the World Council of Churches' (WCC) opinion that the allies' attack was "a profoundly cynical act" and said that those who believed the bombing was wrong had failed to come up with a "satisfactory solution".
Asked if he thought the bombing was necessary, Dr Carey told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I do not know what alternatives there were when Saddam Hussein refused to allow inspectors in to look at these factories which were capable of producing chemical weapons.
"I am not a politician, all we know is the evidence given to us by the UN and others, so those who actually believe that this is wrong ... haven't produced a satisfactory solution to say what other alternatives were possible."
He added that it was time to look forward. "What we must try to do is to help the suffering Iraqi people," he said. "People often forget that in the Middle East and in Iraq there are Christian communities as well."
The WCC, an independent body with 332 member churches, has condemned the bombing of Iraq. At the weekend the Pope was critical of the attacks, saying that war would never be an appropriate way to solve international problems.
Dr Carey - who has chosen the theme of "security and insecurity" for his Christmas Day sermon - insisted yesterdaythat the WWC "does not speak for all Christian churches".
In an interview to be broadcast on 25 December by the World Service, he says that 1998 has been a very deeply insecure year for many people.
"Just think of ... Hurricane Mitch, leaving so many people dead and homeless; you think of Bangladesh and the flooding; you think of the trouble in the Middle East, in Palestine, and the recent bombings in Iraq."
He repeats that he is not a politician, but is kept informed about world affairs by the Foreign Secretary. "When you are a religious leader you must try to influence affairs behind the scenes ... the use of force must only be a last resort."
t Dr Carey named the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, author of the Book of Common Prayer, as his choice in the Today programme poll for personality of the millennium. "Next year we will be celebrating the 450th anniversary of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and what the [book] has done for the English language is quite amazing," he said. "It has enriched our language, we owe so much to it. We owe so much to Thomas Cranmer."Reuse content