FACTBOX - Former UK leader Tony Blair's memoirs: extracts

LONDON Wed Sep 1, 2010 5:22pm IST

Copies of the political memoirs of Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, ''A Journey'', are displayed in a bookshop in London September 1, 2010.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Copies of the political memoirs of Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, ''A Journey'', are displayed in a bookshop in London September 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - The following are excerpts from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's memoirs "A Journey", which were published on Wednesday.

ON IRAQ

"There was ... another more pressing and more embarrassing issue for us. We were actively searching for the WMD (weapons of mass destruction). We were sure we would find them. This was the moment I was waiting for ... It was, after all, the casus belli.

"Of course, as I have said, the blunt and inescapable truth is that though Saddam definitely had WMD, since he used them, we never found them. The intelligence turned out to be wrong ... We admitted it. We apologised for it. We explained it, even.

"The mistake is serious; but it is an error. Humans make errors. And, given Saddam's history, it was an understandable error.

"So the aftermath was more bloody, more awful, more terrifying that anyone could have imagined. The perils we anticipated did not materialise. The peril we didn't materialised with a ferocity and evil that even now shocks the senses."

ON FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON

"We were political soulmates ... I was also convinced that his behaviour arose in part from his inordinate interest in and curiosity about people.

"In respect of men, it was expressed in friendship; in respect of women, there was potentially a sexual element. And in that, I doubt he is much different from most of the male population.

"People often asked me about their relationship (Hillary and Bill Clinton) ... I used to say: you know what I think it's all about? I think they love each other."

ON FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN

"Was he (Brown) difficult, at times maddening? Yes. But he was also strong, capable and brilliant, and those were qualities for which I never lost respect.

"It is true he is unsuited to the modern type of political scrutiny in which characters are minutely dissected. He was never comfortable as the 'normal bloke' sort of politician.

"At this utterly crucial epicentre of political destiny, I discovered there was a lacuna (in Brown) -- not the wrong instinct, but no instinct at the human, gut level.

"Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero."

ON DRINKING

"By the standards of days gone by I was not even remotely a toper (heavy drinker), and I couldn't do lunchtime drinking except on Christmas Day, but if you took the thing everyone always lies about -- units per week -- I was definitely at the outer limit.

"Stiff whisky or G&T (gin and tonic) before dinner, couple of glasses of wine or even half a bottle with it. So not excessively excessive. I had a limit. But I was aware it had become a prop."

ON PRINCESS DIANA

"I got to know her (Diana) reasonably well before the 1997 election. ... We kept in touch, and met from time to time. ... She wasn't condescending, she laughed normally, she conversed normally, she flirted normally. ... I always used to say to (press secretary) Alistair (Campbell): 'if she were ever in politics, even Clinton would have to watch out.'"

ON FORMER RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN

"The Russians were very weird to deal with at this time (the Kosovo crisis in 1999) ... By the time I knew him (Yeltsin), he had become, let us say, a bit unpredictable.

"I recall meeting him at an international summit shortly after the Kosovo conflict ... (He) came across the room to greet me with one of his famous hugs ... The hug began. The first ten seconds were, I thought, wonderfully friendly.

"The next ten began to get a little uncomfortable. The following ten started respiratory problems. I finally got released after about a minute and staggered off in search of a stiff drink. I think he made his point."

(Writing by Maria Golovnina and Peter Griffiths; Editing by Tim Castle and Elizabeth Fullerton)

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