02/09/2012 09:13 BST | Updated 03/09/2012 10:16 BST

Desmond Tutu Calls For 'Playground Bullies' Blair And Bush To Be Tried In The Hague Over Iraq War (POLL)

Tony Blair and George Bush should be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for their part in the Iraq war, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and long-time critic of the invasion argued that the war has destabilised and polarised the world more than "any other conflict in history".

In response, Blair said that the Archbishop posed "the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say".

Writing in Sunday's Observer Tutu claimed that the current situation in Syria and possible conflict with Iran are the results of the decision made by "playground bullies" Blair and Bush to enter into conflict in 2003.

"The then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us," he said.

The Archbishop also spoke of the "double standards on war crimes", arguing that the treatment of western and African leaders is inconsistent, comparing the treatment of Blair with Robert Mugabe as an example. Tutu said that the death toll in Iran alone is enough for the former leaders to be brought before The Hague.

"On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague," he said.

Tutu also spoke of his decision not to attend the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week, after discovering Blair would also be in attendance.

"I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on 'leadership' with Mr Blair," he said.

In response, Blair issued the following statement:

"I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu's fight against apartheid - where we were on the same side of the argument - but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.

"And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.

"We have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam's use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.

"In addition his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.

"In short this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree. I would also point out that despite the problems Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra."