LONDON - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he would have found another justification for invading Iraq even without the now-discredited evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean, obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat," Blair told the BBC in an interview to be broadcast today.

The onetime British leader was former President George W. Bush's staunchest ally in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Blair's comments were denounced by critics who accused him of using false pretenses to drag Britain into an unpopular war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of allied troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Speaking to broadcaster Fern Britton, Blair insisted that ousting Hussein had improved the situation in Iraq by laying the foundation for a more democratic country. He described the Iraqi elections scheduled for March as "probably the single most significant thing that's happened to that region for many years."

"I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge," Blair said of Hussein. But he added that he could understandwhy some opposed the invasion.

The interview comes a few weeks after Britain launched an inquiry into the decision to go to war.

The claim that the Iraqi dictator was developing weapons of mass destruction was the primary justification for the war, but it proved untrue.