( AFP )- The US-led war ended the brutal rule of torture and tyranny under Saddam Hussein, even if Iraq today faces the perils of terrorism and corruption, President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday, the eve of the conflict's fifth anniversary.
"The brutal regime of the dictator fell ... the regime that ruled Iraq for decades, the decades of darkness. The decades that were of tyranny," said Talabani in a statement released on Wednesday.
During Saddam's iron-fisted rule, the prisons were full of "innocent prisoners", said Talabani, a Kurdish former rebel foe of Saddam.
"These cells were Saddam's theatres for torture and brutal crimes."
On Thursday, Iraq marks the fifth anniversary of the US-led war that toppled Saddam's regime, but also plunged the nation into chaos and bloodshed.
Talabani said Saddam's regime "wasted" the wealth of oil- and water-rich Iraq wealth by taking the nation to a series of wars.
"The former regime violated all values of humanity. It used chemical weapons on men, women and children of Halabja and carried out the brutal Anfal campaign," he said referring to military strikes launched by Saddam's forces on Iraqi Kurds in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war.
International human right activists say that nearly 180,000 Kurdish villagers were slaughtered in these strikes.
Talabani said the former regime kept the country "backward" even as the world progressed.
"Iraqis were not allowed to use mobile phones, or Internet or satellite channels. The regime prevented publishing of magazines and scientific journals," he said.
But the "liberation of Iraq" by US-led forces was the start of a new era, he said.
"The walk on this new path began five years ago but it faces huge difficulties. There is violence and terrorism and corruption has become a dangerous disease," he said.
"The presidency and the political leadership are doing their best to treat these deficiences and take the country towards stability. We are confident that the journey that began five years ago will be completed with the growing national unity."
On Thursday, Iraq wrapped up a two-day national unity conference which was severely hampered as two key parliamentary blocs boycotted it.
The main Sunni Arab bloc and the faction loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stayed away from the conference, delivery a fresh blow to the battered political process.
The five-year conflict has killed more than 4,000 US and allied soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians -- between 104,000 and 223,000 died between March 2003 and June 2006 alone, according to the World Health Organisation.