Annan says Iraq life 'worse than under Saddam'

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Life for ordinary Iraqis is now worse than under Saddam Hussein as the country descends into violence "much worse" than civil war, Kofi Annan has said.

The Secretary General of the United Nations gave his hardest-hitting assessment yet of the present situation as he prepared to leave office.

"If I was an average Iraqi, I would make the same comparison," he told the BBC.

"They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets: they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back without a mother or father worrying 'Am I going to see my child again?'.

"A society needs minimum security and a secure environment for it to get on. Without security, not much can be done."

The question of whether the sectarian violence in Iraq can be termed a "civil war" has become a highly-controversial one.

But Mr Annan indicated he was in no doubt about its seriousness "given the level of the violence, the level of killing and the way the forces are ranged against each other".

"A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse," he said.

Mr Annan said he did "everything I could" to stop the war taking place in the first place and genuinely believed it could have been halted.

And he said his biggest regret from his time in the role was that the war had claimed the lives of almost two dozen colleagues in a Baghdad bombing.

"My biggest regret? It is the loss of 23 wonderful colleagues and friends I sent to Iraq who got blown away," he said.

"They went to Iraq to try and help clean up the aftermath of a war I genuinely did not believe in.

"Of course, when that happens you ask questions: would they be here if I had not asked them to go?"