Soros attacks Bush policies in Iraq

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Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros has stepped up his attack on President George W. Bush's international policies by saying the US war on terror had claimed more innocent lives than the September 11 attacks.

Mr Soros said the invasion of Afghanistan could be justified because the Taliban had helped al-Qaeda but the invasion of Iraq "could not be similarly justified."

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in New York, he further charged that recently published photographs of US troops abusing Iraqi prisoners were "not a case of a few bad apples, but a pattern tolerated and even encouraged by the authorities.

"We claim to be liberators, but we turned into oppressors," Hungarian-born Mr Soros said of US actions in Iraq.

He has been a staunch critic of the Republican administration's policy on Iraq and has donated or pledged at least $12.5 million to the Democratic campaign to defeat Mr Bush in the November elections.

"September 11 was a traumatic event that shook the nation to its core - but it would not have changed the course of history for the worse if President Bush had not responded the way he did," Mr Soros said.

"Declaring war on terrorism was understandable, perhaps even appropriate, as a figure of speech. But the president meant it literally and that is when things started going seriously wrong."

Mr Soros said now that the US position in Iraq had become "unsustainable," it was handing over power to local militias.  "This prepares the ground for religious and ethnic divisions and possible civil war in the manner of Bosnia rather than Western-style democracy," he said.

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