- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

LONDON (AP) — Tony Blair regrets banning fox hunting, but not invading Iraq. He was captivated by Princess Diana, intimidated by Queen Elizabeth II. He heaps praise on President George W. Bush but calls his close colleague Gordon Brown a man of “zero” emotional intelligence. He acknowledges that some find him delusional, and says he possibly drank a bit too much.

Mr. Blair’s long-awaited memoir hit bookstores Wednesday, and the revealing, self-justifying 700-page volume provides plenty of fodder for the former British prime minister’s supporters — and detractors.

Mr. Blair was paid a 4 million pound ($7 million) advance for “A Journey,” which recounts his voyage from political neophyte to youthful prime minister to admired, and then reviled, statesman.

Iraq is his most divisive legacy, but Mr. Blair says he is not sorry for his decision to enter the U.S.-led war — although he wept for its victims. He is donating all proceeds from the book to a charity for wounded troops.

“I … regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died,” Mr. Blair writes. “Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it.”

But, he adds, “on the basis of what we do know now, I still believe that leaving Saddam in power was a bigger risk to our security than removing him.”

“I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he says, although he admits that “never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded” once Saddam was gone.

He knows his position is unpopular: “Friends opposed to the war think I’m being obstinate; others, less friendly, think I’m delusional.”

The book was selling briskly in British stores Wednesday and was No. 1 on Amazon’s British best-seller list, though it was struggling to break the top 100 in the United States.

It also drew a protest by peace activists outside a London store. Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition branded Mr. Blair a war criminal and said the book was “trying to justify the unjustifiable.”

Mr. Blair, 57, stepped down in June 2007 after a decade that included a historic peace accord in Northern Ireland, the deeply unpopular war in Iraq and the continuing conflict in Afghanistan.

For many Americans, he remains a valued ally who stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against international terrorism. He’s scheduled to receive the 2010 Liberty Medal from former President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia on Sept. 13.

At home, he is a more polarizing figure. Swept to power in 1997 on a wave of popular enthusiasm, Mr. Blair left office a decade later condemned by many over Iraq and viewed as a liability by much of his own Labor Party.

“A Journey” gives a strong defense of his policies. One of the few Mr. Blair says he regrets is the ban on fox hunting, which caused outrage among many people in the countryside.

“I didn’t feel how, for fox hunters, this was part of their way of life,” he says. “The passions aroused by the issue were primeval.”

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