War critics say Tony Blair is 'rewriting history'
• Blair: said removing Saddam was a motive for invasion of Iraq.
The former prime minister – who is due to give evidence in the new year to the Chilcot inquiry into the war – said the threat posed by Saddam to the wider region had meant it was right to remove him from power.
But opponents have accused him of trying to "rewrite history" and leading the country into a "disastrous and illegal war".
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said Blair would not have obtained the support of the Cabinet or parliament for war if he had been so open about his view on regime change at the time.
In a BBC radio interview yesterday he said: "In spite of experience, in spite of the benefit of hindsight, Mr Blair still does not realise just how much of a foreign policy disaster Britain's involvement in the military action against Iraq turned out to be.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that if Mr Blair had told his cabinet what he is now saying, he'd have found it very difficult to keep all of them – he did, of course, lose Robin Cook and, eventually, Clare Short. But the one place he would have undoubtedly failed would have been in the House of Commons."
Angus Robertson MP, the SNP's Westminster leader and defence spokesman, said: "Tony Blair appears to be rewriting history before he is called before the Iraq inquiry, but his admission now raises crunch questions for the current Prime Minister.
"Would Gordon Brown still have bankrolled the war had he known there were never any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
"The heat is now on Gordon Brown, as the chancellor who wrote the cheques for this disastrous and illegal war."
Blair told Fern Britton in a BBC interview to be broadcast today that other factors influenced his decision to back military action in 2003.
He said: "I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.
"It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one, and because you'd had 12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject, he used chemical weapons on his own people – so this was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind."
He also acknowledged that there were families who blamed him for the deaths of their loved ones in a conflict in which they believed Britain should never have been involved.
The Stop the War Coalition's national convener, Lindsey German, said Blair should face legal proceedings should he repeat the statements in the interview to the Chilcot inquiry.
She said: "Not to do so will confirm what many people suspect – that Sir John Chilcot's committee was handpicked by Gordon Brown with the clear intention of whitewashing war crimes."