LONDON (AFP) - Tony Blair triggered strong reactions from parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and the political opposition, after the British prime minister evoked God in his decision to go to war.
Details emerged Friday of Blair's interview on an ITV1 television talk show where he said God and history would judge his action in joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
"That decision has to be taken and has to be lived with, and in the end there is a judgment that -- well, I think if you have faith about these things then you realise that judgment is made by other people," Blair said in the interview with host Michael Parkinson which will air Saturday night.
Pressed to clarify what he meant, Blair, a devout Christian, replied: "If you believe in God, it's made by God as well."
The words did not sit well with Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004, one of the 103 British soldiers to date to have lost their lives in the Iraqi conflict.
"How can he say he is a Christian?" said Gentle, a campaigner with Military Families Against the War.
"A good Christian wouldn't be for this war. I'm actually quite disgusted by the comments."
Reg Keys, the father of a dead soldier, accused Blair of "using God as a get-out for total strategic failure and I find it abhorrent."
His son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was one of six Royal Military policemen killed by an Iraqi mob in Majar al-Kabir in June 2003.
Keys, who stood against the prime minister in the last general election on an anti-war ticket, said Blair's remarks reminded him of US President George W. Bush who was quoted as saying last year that God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
"God and religion have nothing to do with this war," Keys said.
That view was echoed by the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Britain's second opposition party, who said "going to war isn't just an act of faith."
It requires legal analysis and a close look at the consequences, and Blair's "prospectus for military action was flawed," Menzies Campbell said.
Other Liberal Democrats agreed that God should not be part of the equation.
"It is a bizarre and shocking revelation that the prime minister claims to have been guided by the supernatural in this matter, especially given the particular religious sensitivities in the Middle East," said Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat member of parliament from the Oxford area, who is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.
"We don't want Bush or Khomeini-type fundamentalism in our politics," he added.
Blair is seen by some as the most religious British premier since William Gladstone (1809-189, who gave up his vocation as a pastor to enter politics.
Blair's handlers, including his former communications chief Alastair Campbell, have reportedly tried to steer Blair away from references to God, including reputedly removing the phrase "God bless you" from Blair's television address on the outbreak of the Iraq war.
During last year's election campaign, BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman asked Blair if he prayed with Bush.
Looking decidedly uncomfortable, Blair replied: "No, Jeremy, we don't pray together."
But questions of religion surround Blair. There is speculation he plans to convert from High Church Anglican to Catholicism after leaving office.
Blair's wife Cherie is a strong Catholic and he regularly attends Mass with her and their children at the prime minister's country residence in Chequers.
The Catholic priest of that parish, Timothy Russ, has revealed that Blair asked for advice on moving between the churches.
But Blair says he has no plans to convert and only attends Catholic services so the family can worship together.
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