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Carter castigates Bush foreign policy

Says Britain's support of war is a 'tragedy'

LONDON -- Britain's support for the war in Iraq was a "major tragedy" for the world, and the Bush administration has been "the worst in history" in international relations, former President Jimmy Carter said in two interviews yesterday.

On British Broadcasting Corp. radio, Carter criticized Prime Minister Tony Blair's unwavering support for President Bush, saying it has contributed to the troubled aftermath of the Iraq invasion.

Asked how he would judge Blair's support of Bush, the former Democratic president said: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient."

"And I think the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world," Carter said.

Blair was in Baghdad yesterday morning for what will be his last trip to Iraq as British prime minister. Last week, Blair announced that he would step down June 27, making way for treasury chief Gordon Brown.

The war in Iraq has been the defining foreign policy issue of Blair's premiership, and the decision to join the US-led invasion was an unpopular one at home.

So far, nearly 150 British service members have died in Iraq.

Carter said Britain's support made it more difficult for critics of the war, and that the results might have been different if Britain spoke out against the 2003 invasion.

"I can't say it would have made a definitive difference, but it would certainly have assuaged the problems that arose lately," said Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981.

"One of the defenses of the Bush administration, in the American public and on a worldwide basis -- and it's not been successful in my opinion -- has been that, OK, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us.

Carter took aim at the Bush administration's policy of preemptive war in Iraq, as well as its Middle East diplomacy, in a separate interview published yesterday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter said.

"The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon, and others, has been the most disturbing to me."

Carter gave the Arkansas interview while promoting his new audiobook series, "Sunday Mornings in Plains," a collection of weekly Bible lessons from his hometown of Plains, Ga.

"Apparently, Sunday mornings in Plains for former President Carter includes hurling reckless accusations at your fellow man," said Amber Wilkerson, Republican National Committee spokeswoman. She said it was hard to take Carter seriously because he also "challenged Ronald Reagan's strategy for the Cold War."

Carter came down hard on the Iraq war.

"We now have endorsed the concept of preemptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said.

"But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."

Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, criticized Bush for having "zero peace talks" in Israel.

Carter also said the administration abandoned or rejected every negotiated nuclear arms agreement, as well as environmental efforts by other presidents.

Douglas Brinkley, a Tulane University presidential historian and Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as unprecedented.

"This is the most forceful denunciation President Carter has ever made about an American president," Brinkley said. "When you call somebody the worst president, that's volatile. Those are fighting words."

While in Baghdad, Blair urged Iraq's leaders to speed up reconciliation efforts to end the violence in the country. Three blasts rocked the compound where he met with Iraq's leaders, wounding one person.

It was not known whether Blair was in the embassy at the time, but he appeared to refer to the attack when he held a news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani after meeting with them privately.

Blair, whose premiership has been dominated by his unpopular decision to join the Iraq war, said he believed security was improving in Iraq, but acknowledged mortar attacks and terrorist attacks were still daily occurrences.

"Iraq was liberated from the terrible dictatorship of Saddam [Hussein] and now there are attempts to oppress it in a different ways with terrorism and violence," he said.