- Associated Press - Sunday, September 2, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on Sunday for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. President George W. Bush to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq

Archbishop Tutu, a South African who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, wrote in an op-ed article for the Observer newspaper that the ex-leaders should be made to “answer for their actions.”

The Iraq war “has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history,” Archbishop Tutu wrote.

“Those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague,” he added.

The Hague-based court is the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal and has been in operation for 10 years. So far it has launched prosecutions only in Africa, including in Sudan, Congo, Libya and Ivory Coast.

Archbishop Tutu long has been a staunch critic of the Iraq war, while others opposed to the conflict — including playwright Harold Pinter — previously have called for Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair to face prosecution at The Hague.

“The then-leaders of the U.S. and U.K. fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand — with the specter of Syria and Iran before us,” said Archbrishop Tutu, who last week withdrew from a conference in South Africa because of Mr. Blair’s presence at the event.

While the International Criminal Court can handle cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, it does not currently have the jurisdiction to prosecute crimes of aggression. Any potential prosecution over Iraq likely would come under the aggression category.

The United States is among the nations that do not recognize the International Criminal Court.

In response to Archbishop Tutu, Mr. Blair said he has great respect for the archbishop’s work to tackle apartheid in South Africa, but Mr. Blair accused him of repeating inaccurate criticisms of the Iraq war.

“To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong, as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown,” Mr. Blair said. “And to say that the fact that Saddam (Hussein) massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.”

However, Mr. Blair said that “in a healthy democracy, people can agree to disagree.”

In Britain, a two-year-long inquiry examining the buildup to the Iraq war and its conduct is yet to publish its final report. The panel took evidence from political leaders including Mr. Blair, military chiefs and intelligence officers. Two previous British studies into aspects of the war cleared Mr. Blair’s government of wrongdoing.

The Iraq war was bitterly divisive in the United Kingdom and saw large public demonstrations. However, Mr. Blair subsequently won a 2005 national election, though with a reduced majority.

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