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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Blair promises victory over terror
Tony Blair
Blair claims moral cause for action against the Taleban
Nick Assinder

Tony Blair has set Britain on war footing with a promise: "This is a battle with only one outcome - our victory, not theirs."

In a long and weighty speech, he attempted to map out his own political ideology and answer those criticising him over his plans for the private sector.


Let there be no moral ambiguity about this, nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could

Tony Blair
Inevitably, the international crisis dominated the speech and Mr Blair made it plain that the Afghan regime had run out of time in refusing to hand over terrorist suspects.

Military action against them and Osama Bin Laden was now inevitable, he suggested, adding that there was a moral need to take on the terrorists responsible for the US attacks.

However, he appeared to offer the Taleban one final chance to "surrender the terrorists or surrender power".

Some saw this as a retreat from the signals his aides had given before the speech, in which it was said he would tell the Taleban there was no more time for diplomacy.

It is likely the prime minister did not want to appear to be upstaging President Bush by suggesting military action was only hours away.

But his message was still the strongest yet against Kabul, with persistent references to the action that "will" be taken - rather than "may" be taken.

He said there was "no compromise possible with such people".

"Be in no doubt, Bin Laden and his people organised this atrocity. The Taleban aid and abet him. He will not desist from further acts of terror. They will not stop helping him.


The action we take will be proportionate and targeted, we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties

Tony Blair
"Yes we should try to understand the causes of terrorism, but let there be no moral ambiguity about this, nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could.

"The action we take will be proportionate and targeted, we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties.

"But understand what we are dealing with. Listen to the calls of those passengers on the planes.

"Think of the children on them, told they were going to die."

Trap around the regime

In the most hawkish speech made by any coalition leader so far, Mr Blair said the Afghan regime faced a simple choice.

"They can surrender the terrorists, or face the consequences and again, in any action the aim will be to eliminate their military hardware, cut off their finances, disrupt their supplies, target their troops - not civilians.

"We will put a trap around the regime. And I say to the Taleban - surrender the terrorists, or surrender power. It is your choice."

He also hinted that he hoped the Taleban regime would be ousted in the looming conflict.

"If the Taleban regime changes, we will work to make sure its successor is one that is broad-based, that unites all ethnic groups and that offers some way out of the miserable poverty that is their present existence."

Mr Blair also claimed that some good could yet emerge from the evil of 11 September.

Global community

"There is a coming together. The power of community is asserting itself. We are realising how fragile are our frontiers in the face of the world's new challenges," he said.

That spirit of unity could be used to solve conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Northern Ireland and other areas of the globe.

And, turning on the anti-globalisation protestors who demonstrated at the conference, he said it was only globalisation not isolation that could solve the world's problems.

He also suggested that the international crisis might have strengthened the case for Britain joining the single currency.

In his strongest signal yet that he may hold a referendum on the issue soon, he said if the economic conditions for entry were met, Britain should join the Euro.

"If they are met in this parliament we should have the courage of our argument, to ask the British people for their consent in this parliament."

Tax rises

He insisted his battle to reform public services would continue - even suggesting that if that meant tax rises then he was ready to do that.

If there was a choice between more investment and tax cuts "then investment must come first", he said.

Turning on those party and union critics of his plans to bring private finance into the public services, he said he believed it was as important as the battle to dump the socialist Clause IV of the party's constitution shortly after he became leader.

"The mantle of leadership comes at a price, the courage to learn and change."

New world order

"The next stage for New Labour is not backwards, it is renewing ourselves again," Mr Blair told the packed conference hall.

"Just after the election an old colleague of mine said - 'come on Tony, now we have won again can't we drop all this New Labour and do what we believe in'.

"I said - it's worse than you think, I really do believe in it.

"But let us get one thing clear. Nobody is talking about privatising the NHS or schools. Nobody believes the private sector is a panacea."

And he concluded his speech - one of the longest and weightiest for years - with an attempt to reinvigorate his party.

"This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again.

"Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.

"Today humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity for all. Yet science can't make that choice for us.

"Only the moral power of the world acting as a community can - by the strengths of our endeavour we achieve more together than we can alone.

"For those people who lost their lives on 11 September and those that mourn them, now is the time for strength to build that community.

"Let that be their memorial."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"We seek the guilty"
The BBC's political editor Andrew Marr
"Diplomatic language does not come any blunter than this"
Foreign affairs analyst Robert Lieber
assesses the impact of Mr Blair's speech

Latest news

Blair's speech

From the fringe

AUDIO VIDEO
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