Libya chaos could have been worse without Gaddafi ouster: Blair

AFP , Friday 11 Dec 2015

Tony Blair
In this image taken from TV former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gestures while appearing in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee at the House of Commons in London Friday Dec. 11, 2015(Photo:AP)

The Western intervention to depose Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi in 2011 may have saved the country from even further chaos, despite ongoing bloodshed, former British prime minister Tony Blair said Friday.

Blair also defended his working relationship with Gaddafi, and revealed that he had telephoned the former dictator urging him to cede power shortly before he was ousted and slain in October 2011.

"My concern was not for his safety. My concern was to get him out of the situation so that a peaceful transition could take place," he said while giving evidence at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

Despite his proximity to Gaddafi, Blair said that "once the Arab Spring began, it was clear" that his regime would collapse.

He also said he "was not going to criticise" former French president Nicolas Sarkozy for spearheading the international campaign that led to Gaddafi ‘s downfall.

Libya has since been plunged into lawlessness and conflict, with the country splitting into two warring factions.

"Libya is obviously in a state of instability and chaos and it has caused huge problems for all the region. It is a security problem for us actually here," said Blair.

"But I don't think you can make the judgement as to whether it would be better if we had not intervened.

"If we didn't intervene it could have been worse".

Blair claimed that without his 2004 so-called "deal in the desert" with Gaddafi, which led to Libya getting rid of its chemical weapons, the Islamic State jihadist group now operating in the area would be even more dangerous.

"It is important that we brought them in from the cold... and important also in today's context because I think -- particularly if we had still had the residue of that chemical weapons programme in Libya today, given the state of Libya today and given the presence of IS there -- it would have constituted a real risk, even today," he said.

Representatives from Russia, Britain, China and France will meet on Sunday to address growing concerns that IS has been exploiting the chaos in Libya.

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