Nelson Mandela was so upset by Britain's decision to invade Iraq that he made an angry telephone call to a senior Cabinet Minister and told him that Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, had made a “very, big mistake”.

Peter Hain, who was Welsh Secretary in Mr. Blair's Cabinet and has written a biography of the South African leader, said Mr. Mandela was “breathing fire down the phone”.

“He rang me up when I was a Cabinet Minister in 2003, after the invasion. He said: ‘A big mistake, Peter, a very big mistake. It is wrong. Why is Tony doing this after all his support for Africa? This will cause huge damage internationally'. I know Nelson Mandela quite well. He was virtually breathing fire down the phone on this and feeling a sense of betrayal,” Mr. Hain said ahead of the launch of the book.

Mr. Hain, who grew up in South Africa and was closely involved with the anti-apartheid campaign, said he had never known Mr. Mandela to be “so angry and frustrated”.

Describing him as a “friend and a hero”, he said: “He clearly felt very, very strongly that the decision that the Prime Minister had taken — and that I as a member of the Cabinet had been party to — was fundamentally wrong and he told me it would destroy all the good things that Tony Blair and we, as a government, had done in progressive policy terms across the world. He was always full of praise for the way our government had trebled the overseas aid and development budget for Africa; he just felt that all of this had been completely blown out of the water by the Iraq invasion.”

Keywords: Iraq war

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