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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 May, 2003, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Blair 'ready to meet his Maker'
Tony Blair
Aides persuaded Blair not to say 'God bless you'

Tony Blair is ready to answer before God for his decision to go to war with Iraq, according to a behind-the-scenes account.

The prime minister said he was prepared to meet his "Maker" and could justify those actions which had led to hundreds of deaths.

In a report by former Times editor Peter Stothard, published in the Times Magazine, Mr Blair reveals the depth of his religious faith and its importance in guiding his decisions as prime minister.

Mr Stothard, who spent part of the war with the prime minister, says aides had to persuade Mr Blair to drop the phrase "God bless you" from a televised speech because of fears it would alienate people.

Final judgement

Mr Blair discussed his religious beliefs after seven Iraqi women and children were shot dead at a checkpoint on 2 April.

The very people who should be strengthening the international institutions are undermining and playing around
Tony Blair

Asked how he responded to the deaths, the prime minister admitted "it really gets to you".

But he said he was prepared to be held to account by God for "those who have died or have been horribly maimed as a result of my decisions".

Mr Blair accepted that others who believed in "the same God" might think that the final judgment would be against him.

'Ungodly lot'

The account also says that Mr Blair had planned to end an address to the nation, which he gave at the start of the war, with the words "God bless you."

He was talked out of using the phrase by an aide.

Mr Blair was told that invoking God's name would be a mistake because "you are talking to a lot of people who don't want chaplains pushing stuff down their throats".

Mr Blair told his aides that they were a "most ungodly lot", but was finally persuaded and ended his address with the words "thank you".

'Foolish'

The report also suggests that Mr Blair's love of music and his family helped him to cope with the strains of the war.

And it highlights his anger at Jacques Chirac, after the French president vowed to veto any second UN resolution allowing an attack on Iraq.

Mr Blair said: "This is such a foolish thing to do at this moment in the world's history.

"The very people who should be strengthening the international institutions are undermining and playing around."




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