BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Events: Newsnight
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
banner
This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

The Prime Minister 10/10/01

MARTHA KEARNEY:
How sure can we be that we'll catch Osama bin Laden?

TONY BLAIR:
We can't be sure at the present time. What is clear is that we are disabling the military installations of the Taliban regime which, as you know, is sheltering him. We are also targeting and hitting a good deal of the terrorist camps that Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network run.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Isn't there a risk that he'll win either way? Either he manages to escape from the military coalition or else he becomes a martyr because he's imprisoned or even killed?

TONY BLAIR:
It's for us to make sure that doesn't happen. It's for us to make sure that people understand why we're doing this. His attack, that he has effectively now admitted and indeed said he wants to do more like it, killing thousands of innocent people in America, his attack represented an attack on all the civilised values of the world. We've got to take action against that. I don't know what option we have but to take action. He has now made it clear, if he can, then he would do more.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
You must acknowledge there's a problem with public opinion in this part of the world. You can't just dismiss it as a few demonstrators. Are you losing the propaganda war?

TONY BLAIR:
I don't think we're losing it, but I think we've got to go out and fight it, of course we have. We've got to explain to the Arab world, this is not about the West versus Islam. What Bin Laden did, killing innocent women and children, killing many Muslims, was wholly contrary to the teaching of Islam and the Koran. We've also got to say that every decent Muslim in the world condemned the 11th September attacks. We've then got to explain that when we're taking action in Afghanistan, it's not because Afghanistan is a Muslim country. When we took action in Kosovo, we helped Muslims against Serbia that happened to be a Christian orthodox country, but religious faith was nothing to do with it. It was to do with justice and preventing an injustice to people and trying to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
The reason a lot of people frame the debate in terms of the West versus Islam because they're concerned about the wider war aims. You've talked about there being two phases in this. Can you give me a cast iron assurance that in the first phase, the military phase, the action in Afghanistan won't be extended to Iraq?

TONY BLAIR:
Our first phase is in Afghanistan, because that is the source of the terrorist network that perpetrated the outrage of 11th September. In the second phase, we need to deliberate and consider with our other allies and partners what more we have to do in order to tackle mass international terrorism.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
That leaves open the possibility of military action against Iraq which would be unpopular in this region.

TONY BLAIR:
You're raising that, not me.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
I'm raising the concerns of people in this part of the world, throughout the Middle East.

TONY BLAIR:
Their concern is that the military action we're taking at the moment, against those who perpetrated the 11th September should be concerning Afghanistan. It is, but the second phase is something to deliberate and discuss because there are other groups of international terrorists. How they are financed, how they acquire weapons. How they move across countries. These are all things that need to be considered. It's why the United Nations passed the resolution it did. So rather than people starting the what ifs or running about attacking this country or that country...

MARTHA KEARNEY:
You could rule it out now.

TONY BLAIR:
But I have said to you that the first phase of our campaign is directed towards Afghanistan. I'm not prepared to say, if evidence emerges in respect of other terrorist operations elsewhere in the world, that we're not going to take action, but I'm not engaging speculation about that. That's something to consider, debate and discuss with our partners.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
A very important part of rebuilding Afghanistan is to ensure that there is a stable, broad-ranging government. It doesn't seem possible the Afghan people are going to be able to do it on their own. Do you see a role for the UN in rebuilding that government?

TONY BLAIR:
That's something we are discussing with the United Nations. It's important we do discuss that. I think it is possible, provided we don't walk away from Afghanistan. What I found in Pakistan was the sense they had, that at the end of the '80s, the West said, "You've got the Russians out of Afghanistan, now get on with it." They want a commitment from us, not that we try and decide who the government of Afghanistan is, but that we facilitate and help a broad-based grouping within Afghanistan, giving the country a stable and decent future, rather than the Taliban regime.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Do you see the United Nations as part of that?

TONY BLAIR:
I think the UN will be involved in that, I don't know how at this time.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Part of the background to international terrorism is the tension surrounding the Middle East peace process. What are you doing to try and invigorate the process?

TONY BLAIR:
Nothing can justify what happened on 11th September. The condemnation by the Palestinian authority, by Yasser Arafat, of the terrorist atrocities on 11th September is right. But we need to understand the real sense there is in the Arab world, about the injustice of the conditions in which Palestinians live. We need to use this, not as an excuse to let the peace process wither, but as a opportunity to reinvigorate it. We will play whatever part we can in that.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Doesn't that mean taking a tougher line against Ariel Sharon?

TONY BLAIR:
It means saying we're not prepared to have a vacuum develop in which the terrorists and extremists are the only ones who are doing anything. We must make sure those people who want the process to move forward, and people like Bin Laden are wholly opposed to the Middle East peace process. Those people who want the process to work, have to come together and give it renewed force and impetus.


Links to more Newsnight stories