Retired Gen. Tommy Franks (search) tried to take the blame Monday for President Bush's much-criticized comments declaring an end to major combat in Iraq (search) more than a year ago.

"That's my fault, that George W. Bush said what he said on the first of May of last year, just because I asked him to," said Franks, former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Less than two months after the invasion of Iraq, Bush flew to a U.S. aircraft carrier and declared an end to major combat with a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" in the background.

The event, Bush's words and the banner have been repeatedly criticized and mocked since that first day of May 2003. The Iraq occupation turned more violent, American deaths continued to mount and U.S. forces failed to find weapons of mass destruction, a main rationale for the war.

"I wanted to get the phase of military operation over as quickly as I could, because a lot of countries on this planet had said as soon as that major stuff is over, we'll come in and help with all of the peacekeeping," Franks said.

"On the first of May when Bush did what he did, I was proud of him because he did what I, as the commander, had asked him to do," Franks said in an appearance at the National Press Club. "So if there's a mistake there, it's mine, not a plot. So I thought I'd share that with you. "

Franks noted that the Bush administration has had limited success persuading other nations to participate in Iraq. Of some 160,000 foreign forces there now, about 140,000 are American.