The war in Iraq is a "pure failure" that has left Iraqis in a worse state than when they lived under Saddam Hussein, former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said in comments published Wednesday.

"Iraq is a pure failure," Blix was quoted as saying in the Danish newspaper Politiken.

"If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn't seem that the United States can help to stabilize the situation by staying there."

Blix, in comments that were seen as unusuallycritical for the diplomat, said the U.S. is facing a situation where neither staying to fight nor pulling its troops out of Iraq are good decisions.

Blix said Iraq would have been better off if the war had not happened.

"Saddam would still have been sitting in office. OK, that is negative and it would not have been joyful for the Iraqi people. But what we have gotten is undoubtedly worse," he was quoted as saying.

Blix was in charge of a team of UN inspectors who looked for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. and its allies invaded the country in 2003. He had asked for more time to allow the weapons inspectors to do their work, but was criticized by Washington for his request.

After his team left Iraq, a coalition offorces led by the U.S. invaded the country. The U.S. and British military forces found no weapons of mass destruction.

Violence in the country is escalating, meanwhile, withIraqi civilians, government officials, police officers and often U.S. soldiers killed every day. Bodies are frequently found in Baghdad, bound and tortured. Bombings are common.

Estimates of the death toll from the Iraqi war range wildly.

According to Iraq Body Count, a website that tracks reported deaths of Iraqi civilians from previously published sources,an estimated44,000 to 50,000 Iraqis have died in the war.

Buta study published recently in the British medical journal The Lancetestimated that655,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion began, most of themas a direct result of violence.

With files from the Associated Press