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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Parliament recalled in wake of strikes
Jack Straw, left, John Prescott and Tony Blair, right.
Tony Blair, right, with Jack Straw and John Prescott
The UK Parliament will meet in emergency session on Monday evening to discuss the military strikes on Afghanistan.

During the six-hour session starting at 1800 BST, MPs in the Commons will hear a statement from Prime Minister Tony Blair about action taken so far against Afghanistan.

The Taleban were given the choice of siding with justice, or siding with terror. They chose terror

Tony Blair
The statement will also be read to the House of Lords, which has also been recalled.

Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, speaking ahead of the party conference in Blackpool which will go ahead despite the recall, also gave his full backing to the action.

Speaking from Downing Street on Sunday evening Mr Blair said Osama Bin Laden and his allies were "given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror".

Mr Blair said that in addition to the submarines, other UK forces had been committed to the action and could be used in future.

Thoughts and prayers

There was an unprecedented international will for action, which had only grown stronger in the days since the attack, he said.

"It is now almost a month since the atrocity occurred. It is more than two weeks since an ultimatum was delivered to the Taleban to yield up the terrorists or face the consequences," he said.

"It is clear beyond doubt that the Taleban will not do this. They were given the choice of siding with justice, or siding with terror. They chose terror."

We are peaceful people. But we know that sometimes to safeguard peace, we have to fight

Tony Blair
Mr Blair went on to say that the military action would be "targeted against places we know to be involved in the al-Qaeda network of terror or against the military apparatus of the Taleban".

"The military plan has been put together mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties," he said.

Of UK forces, he said: "The missile-firing submarines are in use tonight. The air assets will be available for use in the coming days."

Mr Blair stressed that the war was not with Islam, but with terrorists.

He also recognised that there might be concern among people about possible repercussions, but said there were "at present no specific credible threat to the United Kingdom that we know of".

'Seeking justice'

He concluded: "None of the leaders involved in this action want war. None of our nations want it. We are peaceful people. But we know that sometimes to safeguard peace, we have to fight.

"Britain has learnt that lesson many times in our history. We only do it if the cause is just. This cause is just."

Mr Duncan Smith said his "thoughts and prayers" were with the servicemen and women and their families.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: A just action
He backed action "against an organisation that has put itself beyond the rule of law".

"Bin Laden and the Taleban are the aggressors - the coalition is just seeking justice. Our first duty as the Opposition is to support the government in this action," he said.

He said it was important "to send a strong message that democracy will not be trampled on".

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was also supportive of the action although he said that military strikes should remain "specific and targeted" and said there had to be a long term commitment to stability in Afghanistan.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "The Taleban has been given every opportunity to give up Bin Laden and to withdraw support from his terrorist network. Under international law these are legitimate targets.

But Margaret Wright, principal speaker for the Green Party, was critical of the government.

She said: "This kind of heavy-handed response will now probably trigger further terrorist attacks in the West.

"The mere threat of war provoked a refugee crisis. Now that bombing has begun, the humanitarian crisis will get worse."

And the longest serving MP in the House of Commons, Tam Dalyell, said: "I would have wished that military action should have been postponed until the spring, because it would have given time for the West to have examined the perpetrators of this crime on September 11."

The BBC's John Pienaar
"The Prime Minister has formed a war cabinet"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Sometimes to safeguard peace, we have to fight"
Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative party leader
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our servicemen and women"
See also:

07 Oct 01 | UK
UK forces join attack
07 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair's unwanted test
07 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair statement in full
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