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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Blair pledges victory over terror
US forces are already massed in the Gulf
The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has told Afghanistan's Taleban regime that they must pay the price for refusing to hand over Osama Bin Laden.

I say to the Taleban, surrender the terrorists or surrender power - that is your choice

Tony Blair
He made it clear that military action against the Taleban and Islamic militant Bin Laden, the prime suspect for last month's terror attacks on the United States, was now close.

He spoke after Nato's Secretary-General, George Robertson, confirmed the organisation had seen "clear and compelling" evidence from the US that Saudi-born Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation were involved in the devastating assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr Blair said: "I say to the Taleban, surrender the terrorists or surrender power. That is your choice."

Blair: "We will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties"
Condemning the Taleban as a regime that oppressed the people of Afghanistan and flooded the streets of the West with drugs, he told the Labour Party's annual conference: "Be in no doubt at all, 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 Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan responded by saying that Bin Laden would not be surrendered without proof that he was involved in the attacks. Abdul Salam Zeef added that the Taleban were ready for negotiations with Washington on the issue.

President Bush, however, repeated his rejection of talks with the Taleban.

"There is no timetable for (action against) the Taleban, just like there are no negotiations. I have said that the Taleban must turn over al-Qaeda organisation living within Afghanistan and must destroy the terrorist camps," he said.

In other developments:

  • US issues warning that "symbols of American capitalism" may be targeted in Italy in the coming month
  • A French-Algerian man held in France reportedly implicates Bin Laden in a separate plot to attack the US embassy in Paris
    Pakistan demonstrators have been pledging their support for the Taleban
  • President Bush announces the reopening of the Reagan National Airport in Washington - the last airport to remain closed since the attacks
  • Russian relief supplies are expected to arrive in Afghanistan, while a shipment of hundreds of tents is set to leave from the UK
  • The World Bank warns that 10 million more people will be reduced to poverty around the world as a result of the attacks

Mr Blair insisted there was "no moral ambiguity" about the war against terrorism.

"This is a battle with only one outcome - our victory, not theirs."

"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."

He added: "Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far, far greater."

Click here for map of possible targets

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, meanwhile, is to travel to the Gulf region later Tuesday for talks with regional leaders.

The Pentagon said Mr Rumsfeld will hold "a series of meetings on defence-related efforts in the war on terrorism".

HMS Illustrious on its way to Oman
Britain has forces in Oman
The United States has maintained a major military presence in the Gulf since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

The US has massed about 30,000 military personnel in two aircraft carriers - the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Enterprise - and 350 planes in the Gulf and Arabian Sea.

Two more carriers are also heading for the region - the USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Kitty Hawk.

Since the 11 September attacks, the Pentagon has sent more than 100 additional air force planes to bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and other Gulf nations.

Britain has sent 24 Royal Navy warships, as well as 23,000 troops, to Oman, but military officials insist they are simply on a long-planned exercise.

Some reports say US and UK special forces are already operating within Afghanistan.

Lord Robertson, after saying that the US evidence proved Bin Laden was behind the attacks, formally invoked Nato's Article Five, which treats an attack on one member as an attack on all.

But the BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says that while Nato members are now obliged to give any assistance the US requests, in practice there will be no Nato military response.

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The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Diplomatic language does not come any blunter than this"
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"I say to the Taleban, surrender the terrorists or surrender power. That is your choice"
See also:

02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair promises victory over terror
02 Oct 01 | Europe
Bin Laden 'named' in Paris plot
02 Oct 01 | South Asia
Race to deliver Afghan aid
02 Oct 01 | Americas
'Self-defence first' for US
01 Oct 01 | Americas
Bin Laden's 'cash link' to hijackers
01 Oct 01 | UK
UK freezes terror funds
01 Oct 01 | Middle East
Military build-up alarms Gulf Arabs
26 Sep 01 | Americas
When will military action begin?
02 Oct 01 | Americas
Nato backs US in anti-terror war
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