The situation in Iraq is much worse than a civil war, said United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in a candid interview in his final few weeks on the job.
Calling the situation "extremely dangerous," Annan told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the international community must help the country to rebuild because he is uncertain Iraq can accomplish it on its own.
"Given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other, a few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war; this is much worse," Annan said.
Annan was vehemently opposed to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, calling for more time to discuss a peaceful resolution to the standoff with then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Everyday life in Iraq is much worse under the American occupation, he said.
"If I were an average Iraqi, obviously I would make the same comparison," said Annan, whose term ends on Dec. 31.
"They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets. Their kids could go to school and come back without a mother or father worrying 'Am I going to see my child again?' "
Iraq's government has not been able to bring security and control, said Annan.
"It's not working the way they had hoped and it is essential to take a critical look at what is going on and if necessary, change course."
Conflict threatens to spread
Annan warned that the conflict in Iraq is just one ingredient that threatens to spill into other parts of the world.
"People are worried. They are worried about the broader Middle East, they are worried about tension with Iran, with Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and some would even stretch it as far as to Afghanistan," he said.
"So we have a very worrisome situation in the broader Middle East and we also need to look at them as a whole, not as individual conflicts," he said.
"There are linkages between these crises."
Annan also called the three-year-old conflict in Sudan's Darfur region "deeply disappointing."
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and many more are being terrorized every day by atrocities committed by militias, some purportedly backed by government troops.
"It is tragic but we do not have the resources or the will to confront the situation," he said. "If you did it, would you make the situation worse or would it be better?"
Annan blamed the country's government, which has refused to let UN peacekeepers enter.
"They are refusing to let the international community come in and assist," said Annan. "They will be held individually and collectively, responsible for what is happening and what happens."
Annan offered some advice to his successor, South Korean Ban Ki-moon: "He should do it his way. I did it my way, my predecessors did it their way and he should do it his way."