WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former US secretary of state Colin Powell said in a television interview to broadcast Friday that his UN speech making the case for the US-led war on Iraq was "a blot" on his record.
In the February 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, Powell forcefully made the case for war on the regime of Saddam Hussein, offering ”proof” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
The presentation included satellite photos of trucks that Powell identified as mobile bioweapons laboratories.
After the invasion US weapons inspectors reported finding no Iraqi nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
"It”s a blot" on my record, Powell said in an interview with ABC News. "I”m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and (it) will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It”s painful now."
Powell spent five days at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters ahead of the speech studying intelligence reports, many of which turned out to be false. He said he felt "terrible" at being misinformed.
He did not, however, blame CIA director George Tenet. Tenet "did not sit there for five days with me misleading me," he said. "He believed what he was giving to me was accurate."
However some members of the US intelligence community "knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn”t be relied upon, and they didn”t speak up," Powell said.
"These are not senior people, but these are people who were aware that some of these resources should not be considered reliable," he said. "I was enormously disappointed," he added.
Powell also said that he had "never seen evidence to suggest" a connection between the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States and the Saddam regime.
As for post-Saddam Iraq, Powell said there was little choice but to keep investing in the Iraqi armed forces.
"What we didn”t do in the immediate aftermath of the war was to impose our will on the whole country, with enough troops of our own, with enough troops from coalition forces, or, by (quickly) recreating the Iraqi (armed) forces," he said.
"It may not have turned out to be such a mess if we had done some things differently," he said.
Powell also voiced concern over a possible civil war in Iraq.
"A way has to be found for the Sunnis to be brought into the political process. You cannot let . . . Iraq devolve into a mini-state in the north, a larger mini-state in the south, and sort of nothing in the middle," he said.
"The mission we set for ourselves at the beginning, and which we told the Iraqis that we were going to do, is to keep this as a single state. And that”s the challenge that we have now," he added.
Powell downplayed his reported differences with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and said he was on good terms with President George W. Bush.
"There are some who say, well, you shouldn”t have supported (the war), you should have resigned. But I”m glad that Saddam Hussein is gone," Powell said.
On Washington”s differences with Tehran, Powell also said he does not see "a clear military option with respect to Iran."