In 1991 I was hoping that the forces would have gone all the way to Baghdad and removed the regime then so I'm sorry it didn't happen much earlier. And it should have happened even earlier than that. Everybody knew what was going on.

It's the argument I've made all along I haven't made any other argument and on those grounds alone there was justification for removing this regime.

When the Kurds were gassed I remember going to the Foreign Office and speaking to the thenforeign ministers and they said 'there's no proof'. I remember going to the Iraqi embassy here and talking to the Iraqi ambassador and he said well this is all nonsense.

I'm angry that we were still selling arms to Iraq even though the evidence was there. I hope we've learnt a lesson on that but I doubt it somehow because there are other nasty regimes. But the fact that we ignored what was going on in Iraq for so long I think is an absolute disgrace.

Over the years the UN Security Council has been very disappointing in it's attitude towards Iraq because they could have set up a UN war crimes tribunal on Iraq and I think the United States and United Kingdom on several occasions sounded out people on the Security Council to see if they could get a resolution of that kind through.

But they were always told by France, by China and by Russia that was unacceptable and that they were not ready to back a UN war crimes tribunal.

It always makes me very angry when I hear people like the French foreign minister, Mr de Villepin, saying they didn't support the war because they wanted a different option and they held the moral high ground but I thought no you don't hold the moral high ground. You had the opportunity, another option, to back a UN war crimes tribunal and you even opposed that.

I would prefer to see the leadership tried at the Hague personally. The Iraqis may have other ideas and of course the death penalty is still prevalent in Iraq and Britain would be in an awkward position I think if we were to go along with a system of justice that involves the death penalty.

It's very early days. But I am confident the Iraqi people will be able to make a success of a democratic pluralistic Iraq. I say that because I know what's happened in the north of the country in Iraqi Kurdistan where since 1991 they’ve had the equivalent of self government even though they were living under two sets of sanctions.

I think everyone will want to see a successful democracy in Iraq and people will work together, as they have in opposition. I’ve been to several of the Iraqi opposition conferences in the past and those planning conferences, included Shia's and other groupings in Iraq. So if they have worked together like that in opposition then I have every expectation that they will work together also now they are building a democracy.

I have my own views as to who I would like to see in the leadership of the country. The Kurds are obviously a minority obviously within the country but the Kurds have already had the experience of building their own democracy in their own part of the country since 1991 and I think that experience has to be built on.

There is one Kurd in particular who is the leader of PUK – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That is Jalal Talebani. He’s a very experienced politician. He has been in the country throughout - he has never left even though it was very dangerous for his family.

He has good relationships with all the Arab countries round about with Iran, Syria, with Kuwait. He has also fostered a relationship with Turkey. These are all neighbouring countries that any future leader of Iraq has to also have the confidence of the countries on the borders.

Like Ahmad Chalabi, who is a member of the Iraqi National Congress. He lives in London. We all know him.

I personally hope that people will look very seriously at Jalal Talebani.

We know that the French, Chirac in particular, is constantly trying to make excuses. And for the French, who have shown a great interest over the years on human rights, to actually ignore the human rights abuses that were going on in that country is an absolute disgrace.