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The Prime Minister 10/10/01
How sure can we be that we'll catch
Osama bin Laden?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
That leaves open the possibility of military action
against Iraq which would be unpopular in this region.
You're raising that, not me.
I'm raising the concerns of people in this part of
the world, throughout the Middle East.
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...
You could rule it out now.
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.
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?
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.
Do you see the United Nations as part of that?
I think the UN will be involved in that, I don't know
how at this time.
Part of the background to international terrorism
is the tension surrounding the Middle East peace
process. What are you doing to try and invigorate
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.
Doesn't that mean taking a tougher line against Ariel
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.