Blair accepts he will be 'called to account' for decision on Iraq war

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has acknowledged that he will be "called to account" over his decision to go to war in Iraq and has accepted that he will be judged on whether he can build a more stable and peaceful future for Iraqis.

Mr Blair accepted the warning of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who said last week that the Prime Minister would be "called to account" for his actions.

Mr Blair, in an interview with The Times today, defends his decision to launch a military strike against Saddam Hussein. "I believe that I made the right decision, but I accept it is a big responsibility. He [Dr Williams] was right than in the end you are, and should be, held to account for such decisions," he said.

He also admitted that he bears responsibility for starting the war and must now see through the process of reconstructing the war-torn country. "Those who started the war must finish the deed and we will. The judgement will be made by whether we make life better or not," he said.

But he backtracked over the issue of weapons of mass destruction, stopping short of claiming that they would be found by the Iraq Survey Group which is searching for evidence of Saddam's covert weapons programme. He said that his main case now was that Saddam's regime was engaged in a "huge operation of concealment".

He said: "Why have this concealment if there is nothing to conceal? I believe that when they interview all the different people they will find what we anticipated was the case, which was that he was in plain breach of the UN resolutions and had no intention of abiding by them."

He denied that relations with France and Germany, which opposed the war, had been seriously damaged.

The Prime Minister ruled out holding a referendum on the European constitution, and said that he did not want the Government to be "convulsed for months" by the issue when it needed to focus on the domestic agenda.

He sent a clear signal to Gordon Brown that he would not tolerate further tax rises. He said that he wanted to keep the British economy competitive against countries such as China. "You have got to make sure that you remain competitive in your economy, including on the levels of taxation," he said.

Mr Blair, in a defence of the plan to introduce university top-up fees, said that Britain needed to maintain a competitive edge to keep up with research in countries such as China and India.

He expressed the will to maintain the momentum for a third term in power, indicating that he did not plan to slow the pace of public service reform.

"This is the time when we decide whether we are really prepared to take the difficult decisions, not whether we are merely able to ameliorate some of the things that the Conservatives did so that we are just a little interval, punctuating their periods of government," he said.

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