Britain says the purging of former
Saddam Hussein loyalists in Iraq was a mistake that has made the security situation
in that country worse.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the biggest error the U.S.-led
coalition made was to ban members of the Baath party of Saddam Hussein from
government and military positions in post-invasion Iraq.
He told British radio that, with the advantage of hindsight, things might
have been handled differently.
Of course, in this transition, some mistakes have been made, and probably the
de-Baathification went too far," he said. "On the other hand, not only for coalition
forces, but above all the Iraqis had to be assured that the people who were reappearing
as police officers and still more as members of the armed forces, were not Saddamists,
former regime elements in new uniforms."
The former U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, issued orders last year
disbanding the Iraqi army and purging all government ministries of Baath party
Mr. Straw did not criticize the Bremer decisions, though he said there had
been great debate between American and British officials about post-invasion
In another development, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a U.S.-funded
Iraqi television station that Iraqis should not be discouraged by the ongoing
"I would say have confidence and faith, because you will succeed," he said. "And
these terrorists, these people represent the past and everything that is bad
about the world. I know how tough the security must be because security is
the most important thing that people want. But you can have security with freedom."
Mr. Blair said the Iraqi interim government that took power Monday has absolute
and full sovereignty. He said coalition troops stand ready to help build up
Iraqi security forces, but will stay in Iraq only as long as the Iraqi people
want them there.