Bill Clinton attacks Bush over Iraq

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The Independent US

Bill Clinton said yesterday that the UN, not America, should be taking Iraq towards democracy, and that George Bush erred in forcing out UN weapons inspectors and going to war without UN support.

"There are so many people who suspect our motives," the former US president said in an address in Brazil. "I don't think Iraq was about oil and imperialism but it was about unilateralism over co-operation as a way to shape the world in the 21st century."

Mr Clinton said the best way to take Iraq to a democracy was multilaterally, with the UN in a leading role. He said the Bush administration should have given UN inspectors a final chance to look for the weapons which it had accused the Iraqi leader of hoarding.

Any military intervention, he said, should have involved a multinational force rather than the present "coalition of the willing".

His world view was one of the US supporting "the World Criminal Court, the comprehensive test ban treaty, the Kyoto [Protocol] and other international efforts". It included "promoting health, education and democracy as part of an anti-terrorism strategy". He added that those international organisations need to be strengthened.

Mr Clinton was speaking to 1,000 or so Brazilian business and political leaders at the inauguration of an institute set up by the former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso.

"Democracy cannot be imposed - the Iraqis have to want it," he said. He backed the Bush decision to go to war in Afghanistan to "root out" al-Qa'ida, but "we have to make more partners and fewer terrorists". Co-operation and ensuring democracy benefited the world's poor would help combat terrorism.

Speaking about Israel and the Palestinians, he appealed to each side.Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip, while keeping West Bank settlements, had "potential merit" but only within a larger peace settlement. "If its aim is to humiliate the Palestinians, it's a negative. With its military might Israel can win on a [daily] basis... but this is a bad deal, this is no way to live."