477 29/08/12 Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair answers some questions during an interview conducted at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sandton. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Johannesburg - Former British prime minister Tony Blair got a loud round of applause when he told the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Sandton on Thursday that it was time to stand up to religious extremists.

He was thoroughly quizzed by several participants about his controversial decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu pulled out of the conference this week, saying he refused to share a platform with Blair because his decision on Iraq had been “morally indefensible”.

Blair told anecdotes about his time as prime minister, such as when he agreed to debate then-French president Jacques Chirac - in French.

But he discovered that his French was worse than he thought when answering a French journalist who had asked him: “Are there any policy positions of the French president that you desire to emulate?”

“What I meant to say was: ‘There are many positions of the French president that I desire to emulate.’

“But instead I said ‘I desire the French president in many different positions’.”

The Star