South Africa's Tutu boycotts seminar in anti-Blair protest

Reuters News
|
Posted: Aug 28, 2012 12:13 PM
South Africa's Tutu boycotts seminar in anti-Blair protest

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Nobel peace prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has withdrawn from a seminar in South Africa this week in protest against the presence of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his support for war in Iraq.

"The archbishop is of the view that Mr. Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible," said Tutu spokesman Roger Friedman.

Blair strongly supported U.S. President George W. Bush as he launched a "war on terror", sending British troops to Afghanistan in 2001 and, more controversially, Iraq in 2003.

Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for speaking out against white-minority apartheid rule and remains a prominent campaigner for peace and human rights.

"Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair," Friedman said.

Blair's office in London said he was "sorry" that Tutu had decided to pull out of the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg.

"As far as Iraq is concerned, they have always disagreed about removing (former Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) by force - such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy," a spokesman for Blair said.

"These decisions are never easy morally or politically."

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Matt Falloon; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)