George Soros slams Bush on Iraq

George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist, said on Thursday he disapproved of US President George Bush’s decision to take “pre-emptive” military action against Iraq.

“Whether you can introduce democracy by force I am not quite sure,” he said on a visit to the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan where is funding a number of democracy-building initiatives.

“The United States is encountering many problems in Iraq and I can only hope that it will not put us off from other more creative and more affirmative ways of building democracy.”

“I am critical of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action and I propose the Soros doctrine of pre-emptive action of a constructive nature where you extend help and support to countries that are moving in the direction.”

Soros made his fortune trading on currency markets. But he has given away huge sums of money to promote democracy and civil society in the former Soviet bloc, where his political pronouncements carry weight.

Under Bush, the US administration has said it is prepared to take pre-emptive military action whenever necessary to prevent anticipated attacks, and justified its war on Iraq as necessary to prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein using its alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, Britain fought off claims on Thursday that it embellished its dossier on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, released last September, to make a more convincing case for war.

The allegations—and denial from Downing Street—cast a pall over Prime Minister Tony Blair’s snap visit to southern Iraq to thank British troops who helped to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime.

They also came amid growing skepticism that proof of weapons of mass destruction—the official reason, repeatedly cited by Blair, for the US-led war—will ever be found.

Quoting an unnamed “senior official”, BBC radio said intelligence agencies had opposed the inclusion in the dossier of the headline-making claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in just 45 minutes.

“That information was not in the original draft” prepared by British intelligence agencies, the BBC’s source said. “It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn’t reliable.

“Most things in the dossier were double source, but that was single source and we believe that the source was wrong.”

The official added: “Most people in intelligence weren’t happy with the dossier, because it didn’t reflect the considered view they were putting forward.”

He believed, however, that Iraq may indeed have had a programme in place to produce weapons of mass destruction, in defiance of UN resolutions.

“I believe it is about 30% likely that there was a chemical weapons programme about six months before the war and considerably more likely that there was a biological weapons programme,” the official said.

There was no immediate reaction from Blair, who on his flight to the Gulf on Wednesday insisted that proof of Iraq’s development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons would yet be found.

But his office in London put out a statement rejecting the BBC report, saying: “Not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies.”

The dossier on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction was a key part of Blair’s case for going to war against Saddam alongside the United States.

The 50-page document outlined Iraq’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons and to develop long-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel or British military bases in Cyprus.

The controversy was set to haunt Blair when the House of Commons resumes its debates next week.

Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, a left-winger within the governing Labour party, has submitted a motion demanding evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“This is absolutely dangerous for Tony Blair.
The potential charge is that the House of Commons has been misled,” said Kilfoyle, quoted in the Guardian newspaper.

In British parliamentary jargon, “misled” is a polite but clear synonym for lying.

One-time foreign secretary Robin Cook, who quit Blair’s cabinet in protest over the war, was also scathing.

“If Donald Rumsfeld is now admitting the weapons are not there, the truth is the weapons probably haven’t been there for quite a long time,” he said, referring to remarks this week by the US defence secretary.

“It matters immensely because the basis on which the war was sold to the British House of Commons, to the British people, was that Saddam represented a serious threat,” Cook said.

“It is plain he did not have that capacity to threaten us, possibly did not have the capacity to threaten even his neighbours, and that is profoundly important.”

Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that Iraq may have destroyed its weapons of mass destruction before the war. - Sapa-AFP

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