Iraq worse than under Saddam, says UN chief
Kofi Annan today bitterly criticised the Iraq war, saying Iraqis suffered greater fear than under Saddam Hussein.
The United Nations Secretary General said the level of violence was "much worseĆ® than in civil wars that were fought in Lebanon and other places.
Asked in a BBC interview if Iraqis were worse off, he replied: "I think they are ... in the sense of the average Iraqi's life.
"If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison-They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets. They could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, 'Am I going to see my child again?'."
Mr Annan, who is retiring after 10 years in charge of the UN, spoke of his sadness at being unable to prevent George Bush and Tony Blair invading Iraq without UN backing.
His comments came ahead of this week's Baker report which is expected to urge a quicker phased withdrawal by US troops and to engage with "axis of evil" states Iran and Syria.
Mr Blair is planning to use the report to press Mr Bush to launch a fresh bid for peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Iraq's president rejected calls for an international conference on how to halt the violence wracking his country. "We are an independent and a sovereign nation and it is we who decide the fate of the nation," said Jalal Talabani.
Seven Americans died in weekend fighting around Baghdad. Meanwhile a US air strike flattened a building, killing two women and a toddler as well as six militants.
President Bush has recently emphasised that he will not withdraw US troops from the battlefield until they have completed their mission. He has also stated that the Baker report is just one of several options that he will consider.
But it emerged over the weekend that even sacked former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a leading hawk, had set out withdrawal on a list of options.
The Secretary General gave his hardest-hitting assessment yet of the present situation as he prepared to leave office. The question of whether the sectarian violence in Iraq can be termed a "civil war" has become highly controversial.
Mr Annan indicated that he was in no doubt about its seriousness "given the level of the violence, the level of killing and the way the forces are ranged against each other".
"A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse," he said.
Mr Annan said he did "everything I could" to stop the war taking place in the first place and genuinely believed it could have been halted.
He said his biggest regret was that the war had claimed the lives of almost two dozen colleagues in a Baghdad bombing.
"My biggest regret? It is the loss of 23 wonderful colleagues and friends," he said. "They went to Iraq to try and help clean up the aftermath of a war I genuinely did not believe in. "Of course, when that happens you ask questions: would they be here if I had not asked them to go?"