Tony Blair said he regretted the loss of those who died in the Iraq war [Gallo/Getty Images]

Tony Blair, Britain's former prime minister, said he did not foresee the "nightmare" that unfolded in Iraq and wept for the war's victims, in memoirs released on Wednesday.

The war-time leader repeated his conviction that the 2003 invasion was justified, but said he regretted "with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died".

"I feel words of condolence and sympathy to be entirely inadequate," Blair wrote in his book, entitled A Journey.

"They have died and I, the decision-maker in the circumstances that led to their deaths, still live."

Citing his work as a Middle East peace envoy and promoting inter-faith dialogue, he said: "I can't say sorry in words; I can only hope to redeem something from the tragedy of death, in the actions of a life, my life, that continues still."

Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq was the most controversial his 10-year leadership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour Party and accusations he deceived Britons over his reasons for war when weapons of mass destruction were not found.

'Divisive legacy'

The memoirs drew publicity after Blair said he would donating the reported $7.09m advance as well as proceeds from sales to a charity supporting serving and former members of the military.

"If this memoir has been an attempt by Blair to write his own history ... I don't think it's going to alter anybody's opinions of him"

Laurence Lee
Al Jazeera

But Laurence Lee, Al Jazeera's correspondent in London, said despite the move, the memoirs are unlikely to change public opinion of Blair.

"Even that gesture [of the donation] has led to a lot of people saying 'he's only doing it because he feels guilty'.

"If this memoir has been an attempt by Blair to write his own history, if you like, I don't think it's going to alter anybody's opinions of him."

He added that Blair's legacy was "amazingly divisive".

"The right-wing in countries like this can't stand him not least because he's made so much money in the corporate world since retiring from politics. And they continue to insist that he lied about the legality of the Iraq war.

"The left-wing .. hates him too. Partly because of Iraq and partly because they believe he's actually a wolf in sheep's clothing."


Attack on Brown

Blair was Labour's most successful leader for decades, but when he left, after years of increasingly open hostility with Gordon Brown, his finance minister, his party was divided.

In his memoirs Blair described Brown, who went onto become prime minister, as "maddening" and "difficult", blaming him for the Labour Party's failure at the last general election.

He said Brown's three years in office were a "disaster" and his succession was "unwise because it was never going to work".

Brown lacked political instinct "at the human gut level", Blair wrote.

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

"It is easy to say now, in the light of his tenure as prime minister, that I should have stopped it; at the time that would have been well nigh impossible."

But he concluded that Brown was "strong, capable and brilliant and the best chancellor for the country."

His comments come on the day Labour begins voting for their next leader.

He was in Washington on publication day, attending Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and will meet Barack Obama, the US president, later in the day.

Source: Agencies