"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law," Pinter said in a pre-recorded lecture broadcast by the Swedish Academy on Wednesday.

  

The Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, aired the interview, recorded on Sunday in London, because Pinter was too sick to travel to Sweden for the lecture or pick up the award in person at Saturday's ceremony.

  

"How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?" Pinter asked.

  

"One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice," he added.

  

The 75-year-old British playwright was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in December 2002.

 

Criticism

  

In the recording made in London, he used nearly his entire lecture of almost an hour to criticise the US  

 

Pinter used nearly his entire 
lecture to criticise the US

"The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War.

  

"I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile," he said.

  

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.

  

"You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force of universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

 

Pinter's criticism of Washington is nothing new.

  

Although he won the 2005 Nobel Prize for his plays, which according to the Nobel jury uncover "the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms," he has recently focussed on political activism.

 

Literature and politics

  

In his lecture, he emphasised the difference between the separate worlds of literature and political life.

  

In literature "a thing is not necessarily either true or false.  

 

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them"

Harold Pinter

"It can be both true and false," he said, adding however that "as a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false."

  

Politicians are not interested "in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power", according to Pinter.

  

"The justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction ... It was not true.

  

"We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11, 2001 ... It was not true," he said.

  

Pinter, born the son of a Jewish dressmaker in Hackney, east London, began as an actor and made his playwriting debut in 1957, with "The Room".

  

That play was followed by one of his masterpieces "The Birthday Party" and his conclusive breakthrough came with "The Caretaker" in 1959, followed by "The Homecoming" in 1964.

  

The playwright's publisher, Stephen Page, will accept the $1.3 million prize money, a diploma and a medal on Pinter's behalf at the ceremony.