The interim president of Iraq, Ghazi al-Yawer, says the U.S.-led coalition made a big mistake when it disbanded the Iraqi armed forces after last year's invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Mr. al-Yawer spoke during a stopover in London, following his visit to Washington.

President al-Yawer says the dismissal of all Iraqi military officers, including those with clean records, has added to Iraq's security problems and has delayed the reformation of the army.

He made his comments in an interview with British radio in London.

"Dissolving the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, was a big mistake at that time. We could have screened people out, instead of screening them in. And this could have saved us a lot of hassle and problems," he says.

The former U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremmer, disbanded the 400,000 man Iraq army shortly after he assumed his post in May of last year.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the key U.S. ally in the Iraq invasion, has conceded it was a mistake to dismantle the Iraqi army and to remove members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party from all positions of authority.

President al-Yawer, speaking on the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture, said the overthrow of the former president has been worth all the problems it created.

"There was no way on earth Iraqis could have pushed him out of the government. We had to have a surgical intervention to do so," President al-Yawer says. "And I think this is the biggest positive thing that made all the negative things relatively secondary, too."

The interim president said there are officials in Iran and Syria who are supporting militants in Iraq in a drive to disrupt elections scheduled for next month. He said Syrian security agents are protecting insurgents, but he did not specify which Iranian agencies might be involved.