Iraq policy has led to Blair's downfall, says top British UN official

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Tony Blair's policy in Iraq is what, ultimately, fatally undermined his position as Prime Minister and forced him to step down, said the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, Mark Malloch Brown, yesterday.

He said the Prime Minister's failure to call for an immediate ceasefire during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon was the final nail in his coffin, triggering the final rebellion by many previous loyalists, and he suggested that Mr Blair had learnt no lessons from his earlier unquestioning support of the United States.

Asked whether Mr Blair might be a candidate for the job of UN secretary general when Kofi Annan steps down at the end of the year, Mr Malloch Brown said: "There's absolutely no break in the view that this time it is Asia's turn to get the top UN job." South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is the front-runner to succeed Mr Annan.

And privately, UN insiders suggest that Mr Blair has no chance. It was always unlikely that the job would go to a figure from one of the permanent members of the Security Council. "They are felt already to be over-privileged," one UN source said. "But Iraq has finished him. Mr Blair seems not to appreciate just how disliked and distrusted he is in other nations."

It is not a view Mr Malloch Brown shares. "I'm profoundly sorry about it," he said of Mr Blair's looming departure as Prime Minister. "On what he's done for Africa, what he's done for development and the use he made of the G8 on climate change, he has been the best international leader of his time. So it's a tragedy that there's been this on the other side of the ledger."

Mr Malloch Brown, whose term of office runs out at the end of December, was also critical of Mr Bush and Mr Blair's "megaphone diplomacy" on the Darfur crisis. "The Sudanese know we don't have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government," he said. "That would be tantamount to fighting a war with Sudan.

"It's not just a credible threat... Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding."

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