CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in a television interview that civil war "has almost started" in Iraq and an American troop withdrawal would only make the situation worse.
Mubarak also told the Arab satellite channel Al-Arabiya on Saturday that the current unrest was Saddam Hussein's fault.
"If Saddam was more just, none of this would have happened," Mubarak said.
The hourlong interview with Al-Arabiya focused on the region's flashpoints — Iraq and the Palestinian territories — and addressed Lebanese-Syrian tensions and Sudan's Darfur conflict.
Asked by the interviewer if civil war was at Iraq's door, a troubled-looking Mubarak said it had already passed the threshold.
"It is not at the door. Civil war has almost started among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and those who are coming from Asia," he said. "The situation is uneasy and I don't know how Iraq will be brought together. At the moment, Iraq is almost close to destruction."
A day earlier, Iraq witnessed its deadliest attack of the year, a bomb at the Shiite Buratha mosque in north Baghdad that killed 85 people. On Saturday, a car bomb killed six people near a Shiite shrine south of Baghdad, and fears of more attacks are running high.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw disagreed with Mubarak during a Sunday television interview.
"I don't deny for a minute that there's terrible carnage. Why I hesitate about saying there's civil war is because we're on the verge of seeing the beginning of a democratic and permanent government there," Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. television.
"It is a high level of slaughter, so I understand why people are saying this. I also say that most people, most of the leaders in Iraq take a different view from President Mubarak."
Straw, who visited Baghdad last week with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Britain was deeply frustrated with the failure of Iraqi politicians to agree on the shape of a new government nearly four months after national elections.
Mubarak also warned that a U.S. military withdrawal would only worsen the situation in Iraq and lead to an increase in terrorism across the region.
"It would be a blow. The war would be inflamed among Iraqis. It would become a theater for a dreadful civil war, and then the terrorist operations will be escalated, not only in Iraq," he said.
He also questioned the loyalty of Iraq's Shiite Muslims to their home country.
"Defiantly Iran has influence for Shiites ... Most of the Shiites are loyal to Iran, and not to the countries they are living in," he said, reflecting a concern among Arab nations that Iran has too much influence in Iraq and that its Shiite-majority Islamic theocracy could spill over onto into their largely Sunni countries.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mubarak said he would push leaders from both sides to return to the negotiating table.
Israeli Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert, whose party won last week's elections, has already agreed to visit Egypt after he forms his coalition government.
Mubarak said he would also invite the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the president of Palestinian Authority and Hamas to talk with him "so that progress would be reached in the 'road map' issue."
The long-stalled "road map" peace plan — sponsored by the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — calls for an end to Palestinian violence and Jewish settlement building and envisions the establishment of a Palestinian state.
But Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas unless the group recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts existing peace accords. Hamas, which took power earlier this month after winning parliamentary elections, has said repeatedly it would not revise its positions, though some leaders in the group have hinted at a readiness to moderate.
Mubarak said a return to peace negotiations was "a must."