updated 2/24/2004 7:51:57 PM ET 2004-02-25T00:51:57

Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix argued Tuesday that Saddam Hussein had not been an immediate threat, making the justification for the war against Iraq unfounded.

The U.S.-led invasion nearly a year ago damaged the authority of the United Nations Security Council and the credibility of the nations that went to war, Blix told an audience of 1,000 at the University of Edinburgh.

“The justification for the war — the existence of weapons of mass destruction — was without foundation,” Blix said. “The military operation was successful, but the diagnosis was wrong.

“Saddam was dangerous to his own people but not a great, and certainly not an immediate, danger to his neighbors and the world,” he added.

Going to war without U.N. authorization damaged the world body, he said.

Blix, whose teams did not make significant weapons finds during months of searching Iraq before the war, has repeatedly criticized U.S. and British handling of information before the war.

Again on Tuesday he criticized the United States and Britain for trusting their own intelligence more than that of the weapons inspectors, who had not found “a smoking gun.”

Blix, 75, who headed the U.N. inspectors from 2000 to mid-2003, said in a speech Feb. 15 that no hidden weapons had been found in Iraq since 1991, but he did not rule out that a minor cache of weapons might be exposed.

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