Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected a call by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu that he and former U.S. President George W. Bush should go on trial for starting the war in Iraq.
The outspoken bishop wrote in the British newspaper The Observer that the two leaders acted on a false premise in 2003 when they said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He said that their decision to launch a war "has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history" and should not go unpunished.
He also said that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush "have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand - with the specter of Syria and Iran before us."
Mr. Blair issued a stern response Sunday, saying that the argument is not new and has been proven wrong. He also criticized Archbishop Tutu for saying that it was wrong to remove then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein despite his massacre of thousands of Iraqi citizens.
But the former British leader added that he had great respect for the archbishop's work.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace prize laureate and retired Anglican bishop, argued that Western leaders are held to a different standard than their African counterparts. He said the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict is sufficient for Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush to face trial in an international court.
He said he had decided not to attend a recent South African leadership conference because he would be uncomfortable to appear at a 'leadership' summit together with Mr. Blair.
Tutu was a leading activist campaigning to end apartheid in South Africa, and later chaired a panel that oversaw reconciliation efforts after the end of white minority rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.