Blix: Costs of invasion outweigh the gains

Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector, said yesterday that Iraq was worse off now than under Saddam Hussein.

"The war has liberated the Iraqis from Saddam but the costs have been too great." Dr Blix said. His comments, to the Danish Jyllands Posten newspaper, raised pressure on Tony Blair ahead of talks with President George Bush and the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, also increased the pressure, as he launched a bitter attack on the US-led coalition. Writing in The Independent, he said the US administrator Paul Bremer's "ham-fisted actions" had turned the cleric Muqtada Sadr into a major resistance figure and called on the US to produce a clear timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

"It is a vicious irony that having promised that victory in Iraq would bring a road map to peace in the Middle East, the Bush Administration has in practice brought to Baghdad [Ariel] Sharon's military tactics against the Palestinians with precisely the same result in consolidating local opposition.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the former Liberal Democrat leader and UN High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said that it could take a decade to secure peace in Iraq. Labour MPs have urged Mr Blair to ensure President Bush does not run down the US military presence to satisfy domestic pressure.

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