Crispin Tickell: 'I have never seen such despair among diplomats'

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"The reason we drafted this letter was because of our profound concern about what is taking place in both Iraq and Israel and Palestine. I have never seen such a level of worry and despair among those who have been involved in the diplomatic field ever before.

"Oliver Miles [the former ambassador to Libya] took the lead in organising the letter. The whole thing took two days. We felt that we must act as soon as possible because of the urgency of the situation.

"The Iraq war was illegal. We have to see what the exact advice of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, was. But whatever policy George Bush and Tony Blair had appears to have been badly planned and badly executed. The situation is deteriorating, and neither government seems to have any answers.

"The main reason the first Gulf War ended when it did was because the United Nations resolution only allowed for the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, not going into Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Bush Senior recognised that and, because he had nothing in place to replace the regime, stopped when he did. Bush Junior, it is becoming clear, did not have any such plan in place either, but he went ahead with this war, and Mr Blair supported him.

"Now there is talk of sending in more British troops. Surely, what we should be doing is paving the way for the establishment of a viable Iraqi democratic government instead of increasing militarisation.

"In the meantime we have seen the road-map for Palestine being torn up. Mr Bush appears to have given Ariel Sharon permission to do whatever he likes. If this continues all we can look forward to is unending war. Mr Blair was careful in what he said about the Bush-Sharon deal. He did not endorse it, but he gave the appearance that he did.

"I do not know why the Prime Minister has acted the way he has. On whether he should distance himself from President Bush, well he has had plenty of opportunity to do so. And he is, as we know, adept at changing his positions."

Sir Crispin Tickell is a former British envoy to the UN