Tony Blair would still have led the country to war in Iraq even if he had known that it had no weapons of mass destruction.
The former prime minister has confessed that he would have had to use different arguments to justify toppling Saddam Hussein. But he says in an interview to be broadcast Sunday morning that he would still have taken steps to remove the Iraqi dictator from power.
He also put the decision to go to war in Iraq in the context of a wider battle over Islam. He said: "I happen to think that there is a major struggle going on all over the world, really, which is about Islam and what is happening within Islam." He said that this struggle had a "long way to go."
At the time of the conflict, Blair, who will be questioned by the Iraq inquiry early next year, based his decision to go to war on evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
He gives an indication of his motives in an interview with the former daytime host Fern Britton, to be screened on BBC One. Blair, who converted to Roman Catholicism when he left office two and a half years ago, denied that his religious faith played a direct part in his decision to go to war. But his faith gave him the strength to hold to the decision and supported him during "the loneliness of decision-maker."
He said it was the "threat" that Saddam presented to the region that was uppermost in his mind. The development of weapons of mass destruction was one aspect of that threat.
Blair said that there had been 12 years of the United Nations going "to and fro" on the subject, and he noted that Saddam had used chemical weapons on his own people.
Asked by Britton if he would still have gone on had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction, he said: "I would still have thought it right to remove him."