Libya: Iraq war could have been avoided, says Blix

LONDON DEC 24. The former U.N. chief weapons' inspector, Hans Blix, has said that Libya's decision to dismantle its weapons programme showed that Iraq could also have been `contained' without "rushing to war."

Mr. Blix dismissed the claims that the Libyan leader, Muammar Qadhafi's decision was prompted by fears that he might meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein if he defied Britain and the U.S. He said it appeared to have been the result of years of crippling economic sanctions rather than a fear of force.

"So, I think one could just as well say that the example shows that perhaps Iraq could also have been handled with continuous containment," he told the BBC.

Mr. Blix, who provoked anger in London and Washington for criticising the attack on Iraq, again accused the British and the U.S. Governments of `rushing' into war. "The rush was probably caused by the fact that so many military people had been amassed near Iraq and that the hot season was approaching so the hand was forced," he said.

Mr. Blix's remarks came as Col. Qadhafi called on other states, which had secret weapons programmes, to follow the Libyan example. "They should follow the steps of Libya, or take an example from Libya, so that they prevent any tragedy being inflicted upon their own peoples," he told the CNN when asked if he had a message for Iran, Syria and North Korea who are under Western pressure to close down their weapons programmes.

The Libyan leader denied that his country had been engaged in a programme of weapons of mass destruction and said it only had research programmes for peaceful purposes. "But nevertheless we decided to get rid of them completely."

He accused Israel of possessing WMDs and said disarmament by Arab countries would "tighten the noose around the Israelis, so they would expose their programmes and their weapons of mass destruction".

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