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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 January, 2004, 10:18 GMT
Jenny Tonge comments: Your views
Jenny Tonge MP
The leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat party, Charles Kennedy, has sacked his children's spokeswoman, Jenny Tonge, because of comments she made about suicide bombers.

She's been widely condemned for telling a pro-Palestinian lobby group she might have become a suicide bomber herself if she'd lived in the Occupied Territories.

Conservative Party spokesman on foreign affairs, Michael Ancram, said the comments would "sicken those across the world who have lost loved ones to suicide bombers".

However, the MP has insisted that her remarks did not mean that she condoned suicide attacks.

What do you think of Jenny Tonge's comments.


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect a balance of opinion we have received so far:

How can anyone saying that they would be willing to blow themselves up as well as kill many innocent people in the process, how can that be translated as "understanding" of the Palestinian plight. It was an insult to the Israeli people. When we start holding terrorists responsible for their actions, only then can the world change.
Geoff, UK

I think that people need to distinguish between understanding why some takes action and supporting those actions. I can UNDERSTAND why anyone living in desperate situation may move to violent actions that they might not use in other circumstances. I am not justifying their actions or supporting them but I can understand. Maybe that's what people lack these days - an understanding of what people are feeling and suffering on the other side.
Cat, Cambridge

I think that the main lesson here is that the press are very good at taking comments out of context and sensationalising them. How can saying that you understand the cause of a problem mean that you are condoning it? For example, just because I can understand why joy riders do what they do i.e. for the thrill of it, etc, it doesn't mean I condone it. These are distinct points with more than just a subtle difference.
JimiP, Windsor, UK

Tonge does touch upon the fact that suicide bombers are made, not born
Joseph, New York, USA
I don't think Ms. Tonge should be vilified. First, she did not condone suicide bombing. Second, she said that she would have become a suicide bomber IF she'd lived in the Occupied Territories. Yes, suicide bombing is evil and wrong, but Tonge does touch upon the fact that suicide bombers are made, not born. Let's not fault her for looking at both sides of the issue.
Joseph, New York, USA

I never cease to be amazed by people's double standards. It is OK for Jenny Tonge to speak out against Israel and say she could think about being a suicide bomber, yet Robert Kilroy Silk is forced out of the BBC for saying what he thinks about Arabs. If people understood some of the history and realised that the sad situation the Palestinian people find themselves in is not the fault of Israel but of their own leadership who have forced them to remain in refugee camps for so long they might be in a better position to form an opinion. How many people know that a UN resolution prevented Israel from building decent housing for the refugees in Gaza, and that Egypt refused to take Gaza back after the 1973 war. No-one challenges the fact that the situation of the Palestinians is sad and unacceptable, but their leaders have had many opportunities to have the Palestinian state they claim to be fighting for and have chosen terrorism and killing of Israeli civilians instead.
Joy Wolfe, Cheadle, Cheshire

Jenny is absolutely right and her words should not be censored, misunderstood, or forgotten. Too many of the world's leaders have completely lost touch with the kind of hard reality that the Palestinian people are forced to exist in, and by far the most of them have never known it. Experience is necessary for true understanding. This is a fact that Jenny has embraced by spending time with the Palestinians and seeing it for herself. Such awful living conditions are the very beginning of the kind of desperation that leads to hopelessness and suicide. Of course, no one can condone such suicide or suicidal bombings, not until they have been forced to exist in that same awful reality themselves. How many of the world's leaders and privileged classes understand that reality? If ever they do, then they will know why such suicidal bombers exist.
Nik, USA

Ms Tonge has empathised with murder, despite her denials to the contrary
Nigel Bowness, United Kingdom
Palestinian suffering is caused largely by their own leadership who insist on fighting a war of elimination against Israel they cannot win and who are so corrupt they steal the bread from their own peoples mouths. Suicide bombers do it out of 'religious' conviction and pure hate not out of 'desperation', they are evil and Ms Tonge has empathised with murder, despite her denials to the contrary. She is a disgrace and seems to forget that two suicide bombers were British and went to Israel to murder innocent people. How were their lives 'desperate'? they were simply full of hate.
Nigel Bowness, United Kingdom

How any civilized mother could have made such comments is beyond me. To target security forces and armed illegal settlers can be regarded as a legitimate form of resistance. To deliberately blow to pieces civilians including women, elderly and children is twisted and evil. Dr. Tonge should have highlighted the often very young and impressionable minds which are encouraged to carry out such attacks by their elders and betters.
Matthew Wilde, Britain

One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. It's all about freedom that has been stolen from them. So you out there who are disturbed by her comments wake up and smell the coffee. Palestine does not have an army, Israel does. So how do Palestinian protect themselves from an oppressor?
Shoki, Glasgow

Jenny Tonge's comments only give weight to those who counsel the killing of school children
Jayne Holland, Sheffield, UK
How many middle-aged people would willingly become suicide bombers even for a cause they passionately believe in? Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation the elders of the Palestinian community have a moral duty to curb rather than exploit the rashness of the young and counsel working for a better way forward as many young black people in South Africa did. Jenny Tonge's comments only give weight to those who counsel the killing of school children and who are ready to cynically sacrifice their own young adults.
Jayne Holland, Sheffield, UK

I think Jenny Tonge has a perfect right to say what she did, and the Liberal Democrats have the right to take what action they see fit. Personally I think it would have been better for them just to say "this is not the policy of our party", and leave it at that.
Chris Q, Bradford England

In our Western "anti-Arab" society it is all too easy to dismiss Palestinian suicide attacks as mindless acts of terrorism. I applaud Jenny Tonge for speaking up for the other side, and highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people. She attempts to understand rather than condemn, and if we are to deal with the problem, we need more people like her.
Stephen Stewart, Newcastle

Jenny Tonge is an honest politician which is probably why she is standing down at the next election!
Richard Cotton, London, UK

Jenny Tonge's comments went beyond "explaining the reasons for terrorism". She was in fact condoning and offering moral support to people who think nothing of blowing up a bus full of school children. Israeli forces might be heavy handed but there has never been an instance of Jewish suicide bomber deliberately targeting Palestinian school children. It is unacceptable for a senior politician to support terrorism - she had to go.
Alan Trinder, Manchester, UK

Am I the only one here who really heard what she said?
T.Gill, UK
It seems crazy to me how people find Jenny Tonge's comments as out of order. She DID NOT condone suicide bombing. Am I the only one here who really heard what she said? All the people here that talk about being sickened, how about looking at what the state of Israel is doing. Is state terrorism more acceptable?
T.Gill, UK

She understood better than any MP in the British parliament what the Palestinian people are going through of horrible acts done in their land and their people, and the support of western countries of the so called Israeli state which was never existed before. So can we call the British society, the western and the system are democratic?
Caamir, London, UK

What has happened to freedom of speech in this country, you can't say anything now without fear of being branded racist or condoning some sort of wrong act, are we in fear of becoming a free nation?
David Hilton, Huddersfield, UK

If she truly understood the conflict and thought before she spoke - she wouldn't have humiliated herself
Daniel, Scotland
believe that her comment were disgusting. If she truly understood the conflict and thought before she spoke - she wouldn't have humiliated herself. These comments must be difficult for people who have lost loved ones in these sort of inhumane acts of violence against other innocent civilians eating or travelling home with their families.
Daniel, Scotland

They call it a democracy; they call it the country where people can speak their mind freely. So why all this condemnation?
Rizwan Saleem, UK

Charles Kennedy is the one who has spoken too fast and thoughtlessly. Jenny Tonge made a single and coherent statement in which she did not condone, but did express empathy with the despair of suicide bombers. for Kennedy to have joined the media in pouncing on one infelicitously phrased sentence out of context is disgraceful. Jenny for party leader!
Katie Abu, Northampton, England

Unfortunately, most of us do not learn to question why, but simply to condone points of view? How many of the people who have condoned Jenny Tonge's view have really seen the plight of the Palestinians. Or is it what you see from the media, that you judge everyone by. Why not ask her in detail why she made these points, and then reflect and give your opinion.
Iqbal S, Southampton

It is disheartening to see that in the UK, as in my country, any attempt to realistically assess the causes and dynamics of terrorism is met with condemnation. Obviously, those in power do not really want to end terrorism - and it is time that citizens start asking why.
Anne, Wisconsin, USA

Ms Tonge expressed her opinion. It was not in any way approving of suicide attacks. Politicians will be afraid of their own shadows next!
Noel Shaw, Stratford upon Avon

As the Liberal democrats' spokeswoman for children, I wonder how she would explain her views to the Israeli children and their families who have been maimed for life by these horrific bombings. She could start with the family who lost three of their children whilst going out for a pizza.
Esther, UK

With such crass judgement, please reassure me that Dr Tonge is not returning to medicine when she quits as an MP.
Dr Rowan Madsen, Bury St Edmunds

Dr Tonge has raised a most valid and important point. That is to look at why people are driven to such extremes as to do such terrible acts. We get crazy people in every society who become snipers and mass murderers but if there are many people doing suicide bombings then there surely must be a reason to it other than madness? Perhaps Dr Tonge should have made it more clear that it is wrong but she has raised a totally valid and much needed argument.
Benny, UK

Just another MP whose lost touch with the ordinary persons thinking of right and wrong in this world today.
Ian Corbett, Dunfermline, Scotland

I think this is frankly unjust; it is a case of a politician attempting to empathise with these people. If we can understand them, perhaps it is the way to finding a solution to a very worrying problem.
Andrew Treacy, Valencia, Spain

She said if she were a Palestinian she would consider becoming a suicide bomber, if that's not supporting terrorism I don't know what is
Dave, UK
Sure its good to be understanding and honest, but this is not the kind of thing we should hear from a children's spokeswoman. Crazy. Other people making comments say she wasn't condoning terrorism, but it seems to me like she was. She said if she were a Palestinian she would consider becoming a suicide bomber, if that's not supporting terrorism I don't know what is. I think her comments went too far. I don't think making a few short and probably staged visits to Palestinian trouble spots can really show her the truth. Sure the Palestinians are in a difficult position, but the terrorism is making it worst not better, that's the stupid part about this.
Dave, UK

It is especially sickening to me that Tonge made her remarks as the LibDem's children's spokesperson. Perhaps the scores of Israeli children killed by suicide bombers are "legitimate targets" in her mind.
Don, Richmond, Surrey

Ms. Tonge's remarks simply highlighted the hopelessness and the frustration the Palestinians endure everyday. It is time we move on past these man made taboos like anti-Semitism and generate the courage to discuss them in an open forum.
Sajid Khan, Boston, USA

I believe that it was quite wrong to sack Jenny Tonge. I am deeply disappointed with Charles Kennedy over this matter. Another blow for free speech.
V Lockyer, Barry

How can we solve a problem if we aren't allow to talk about it, especially, its causes?
Peter, London, UK

Its getting silly now no one can say what they like about anything without everyone kicking up a huge fuss over certain comments most of us make everyday in conversation. However I DISAGREE with the comments made in this case. However, People can think or say what they want in our society that is democracy either negative or positive. Honest Politicians are rare these days, but I feel reckless comments like this case, should be kept to themselves because at the end of the day, who cares what Dr Tonge and people liker her think in the end, who have no power on the world stage.
Chris, London

Once again we see total overkill, when somebody speaks their mind! Robert Kilroy-Silk attacks Arab regimes and gets sacked, Jenny Tonge says she understands what drives someone to become a human weapon, and gets sacked! Why? Did Bush say he didn't like her comments or something? I can understand why the IRA or UDF exist, and who knows, if I lived in Northern Ireland I might have become a member of one or other......doesn't mean that from the comfort of my armchair in England I agree with either of them.
John, York

Suggesting that Jenny Tongue is condoning suicide bombings is ridiculous
Karl, Warwick, UK
Suggesting that Jenny Tongue is condoning suicide bombings is ridiculous; she was trying to understand why people are prepared to take their lives along with others by putting herself in their shoes. Rather than being simply outraged by suicide bombings, we should try to understand why they occur. Unlike many of us, Jenny has seen first hand the suffering of the Palestinians and is better placed to comment on why people who have nothing left to lose carry out a final desperate act.
Karl, Warwick, UK

I think Jenny Tonge was extremely brave to say what she did and Charles Kennedy has simply pandered to the PC Brigade and demonstrated why he makes such an ineffectual leader.
Chris McNicholas, London, England

What a mad world we live in! Jenny Tonge is sacked, and generally vilified, for telling things how they really are, while Blair, Hoon, Straw, et al remain in their posts with a general air of acceptance that they will continue to do so despite having obviously tied the truth in knots.
John, London, England

How hypocritical can people be! All Jenny Tonge was expressing was that she understood how anyone in a desperate situation may act. That is not condoning the acts carried out. The reaction to her comment goes a long way to explaining why the Arab/Palestinian/Israeli problem rolls on year on year. Perhaps if politicians the world over took a little time to think beyond how to score populist votes and look for a positive and peaceful path to resolve instead, the world might just become a safer place to live. All Jenny Tonge has done is to show compassion. When did that become a crime?
Tony, Hastings

All of us must live by the consequences of our actions and words
Martin, Nuneaton, England

Of course Jenny Tonge has the right of free speech. No one has denied her that. But all of us must live by the consequences of our actions and words and Kennedy has the right to sack her just the same, good job too!
Martin, Nuneaton, England

Jenny Tonge's comments are hardly revolutionary. After all, even Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, was quoted as saying if he were Palestinian he's "be a terrorist".
Kevin McKeever, Durham, UK

These comments will haunt the Liberal Democrats for years.
Patrick, UK

Sorry to hear Jenny has been sacked. I feel her remarks were deliberately taken out of context. Perhaps those baying for her blood should live in the Occupied Territories for a while. Good luck Jenny and stand by your convictions. Most people in this country only care about numero uno, how would they know what drives people to such desperate acts.
Yvonne Neblett, Carshalton, UK

I think Dr. Tonge is just being realistic
Liz, Brighton

I think Dr. Tonge is just being realistic and truthful about the choices she might face if she were Palestinian. It's as simple as that. People should listen to the context in which it was said.
Liz, Brighton

I don't see why she felt the need to make these comments. What was the point? Who will benefit? What has the plight of the Palestinians got to do with the job she is doing? I don't oppose her freedom to have an opinion, but did she have to make these opinions public. Sometimes things are best left unsaid
KC, London

She has done nothing wrong. She has stood up for a people that too often are neglected and merely highlighted reasons why they are driven to desperate acts. Of course suicide bombing is wrong; Islam says that. Think then, what dire oppression and circumstances must drive them to such acts. Charles Kennedy has done a cowardly thing in not supporting her.
Dean Broadbent, Glasgow, UK

It is completely different to the Kilroy-Silk case
John Ngo, London

This dismissal is ridiculous. It is completely different to the Kilroy-Silk case, where he casted Arabs in derogative manner. In this case, Tonge said that she could understand why people acted in the ways they did, and highlighted the repressed situation of the people of Palestine.
John Ngo, London

Her sacking is outrageous. As an active member of the Lib Dems for over 9 years I am now seriously reconsidering my membership of a party that does not allow its MPs to look deeply at the causes of these conflicts.
Joel, London, UK

Britain was a party to the treaties which created Israel. Our failure to enforce them, or at least help the Palestinians get some balance, is shameful. Jenny Tonge's comments aren't tactful, but I support the sentiments underlying them. Her party should be ashamed at its lack of support.
Michael Grazebrook, Paris

It's interesting to note that a comment about suicide bombings seems to be getting more publicity than many of the bombings themselves.
Thomas, Birmingham UK

Jenny Tonge showed an understanding of the issues that face many people in the world today
Jim, UK

Jenny Tonge showed an understanding of the issues that face many people in the world today. The Liberal Democrat's own misunderstanding of this, and their subsequent politically correct actions sicken me.
Jim, UK

Not only were her comments offensive - they were also factually wrong. Many of the suicide bombers come from relatively well off educated backgrounds (Researched by the Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA). If it was truly despair rather than ideology - which is fostered through education and indoctrination - there would be far more bombers from below the poverty line.
Jonny, Manchester

How sad that so many people have jumped on these comments as a means of attacking Jenny Tonge and her party rather than looking at the issues she raises. Still, that's politicians for you.
Michael Cartwright, Totton, UK

Jenny Tonge spoke from the heart
Chris Beckett, Canterbury

Jenny Tonge spoke from the heart. The plight of the Palestinians is an international disgrace. When can we expect Bush and Blair to pursue Israel's WMD with full vigour? Never is the shameful answer.
Chris Beckett, Canterbury

Once again the a Nation of Free Speech, but only of it is Politically correct at the time.
Jonathan, Bicester

Why is it that when someone speaks the truth about Israel's occupation and oppression of Palestinians, the speaker is harassed and asked to shut up? All Dr. Tonge did was try to highlight the issues that lead to the creation of suicide bombers.
Farhana, USA

If I were in such a responsible spokeswoman position I certainly would not personalise the issue
J Hudson, UK

I can see Dr Tonge's meaning but if I were in such a responsible spokeswoman position I certainly would not personalise the issue by saying that "I" would become a bomber. She could have got her point across easily merely by saying that she understood that there was immense provocation and leaving it at that.
J Hudson, UK

How can you condemn someone for sympathising and feeling empathy with people's suffering? Maybe if we listened to what people said instead of just insisting in getting offended there might be a chance of peace in the Middle East!
Mark Anthony, Barry, Wales

I believe Dr Tonge has highlighted the result of extreme hopelessness caused by injustice and humiliation. Everyone should be able to express views without fear.
Mehmood, USA

Why does the whole world create a big fuss when someone simply questions the motives behind these acts?
Mustafa, Palestinian living in the UK

As a Palestinian myself I don't support suicide bombing as a means of resistance to occupation. In actual fact I totally condemn these irresponsible and rather desperate acts of terrorism. But why does the whole world create a big fuss when someone simply questions the motives behind these acts?
Mustafa, Palestinian living in the UK

I think she's just expressed a point of view that many people have. She has not condoned any suicide bombing, just recognised why people sometimes take extreme actions.
C Hornberger, Droitwich, UK

Jenny Tongue insults victims of these most horrific terrorist attacks. I am pleased she was sacked.
Peter Ross London

Freedom of speech is one's basic democratic right, but with right comes responsibility. In a multi-polar, multi-ethnic world one (esp. prominent public figures like politicians, celebrities etc) has to be extra careful using these rights. I think Jenny Tonge misused her tongue as did Kilroy-Silk earlier.
Rakesh, India, UK

What Jenny Tonge actually said does not condone terrorism in any way
Tessa Pound, New Malden, UK

What Jenny Tonge actually said does not condone terrorism in any way. If we refuse to acknowledge why people are driven to such acts we will never find a non-violent solution to the situation.
Tessa Pound, New Malden, UK

At least Dr Tonge had the honesty to admit that each of us is liable to fall into violence in reaction to the conditions around us. Of course that reaction of violence is wrong and I wish Dr Tonge would have stated more clearly that such violence is morally unjustified.
R. Campbell, N. Ireland

Robert Kilroy-Silk was forced to leave his job because his personal views were considered to be too offensive
Brenda, London, England

As presenter of a current affairs programme, Robert Kilroy-Silk was forced to leave his job because his personal views were considered to be too offensive to be aired, although he only criticized Arab regimes. After Jenny Tonge actually said she could see herself acting as a terrorist and killing innocent people, will Charles Kennedy now do the right thing and ask Jenny Tonge to step down?
Brenda, London, England

This confused lady has leant support to Palestinian terrorists and is unfit to be an MP. It is fortunate that she will retire at the next General Election! Continuing Palestinian suicide bombing of innocent citizens will never achieve peace in the Middle East!
Adrian, Birmingham, UK

Well done Jenny Tonge, it's about time someone in British politics highlighted the real issues. The only reason Israel has peace talks is to find a way of continuing the oppression and reducing the suicide attacks, I would not subscribe to that if I were Palestinian.
Jon, Richmond, Surrey

While her statement may be viewed as empathic to the Palestinians or cynically playing to her audience, it fails to consider the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Would she tolerate or be empathic to a terrorist act in the UK?
Harold Davis, United States

She is prepared to take a look at what leads to desperation
Michael Baker, Ipswich

Dr Tonge is brave. She is prepared to take a look at what leads to desperation. Of course people will become upset with her, especially those to whom it has had a personal effect. Nobody condones the killing of innocent people. I admire Dr Tonge and I wish I could become actively involved in conflict resolution at international level. It is a mess. Humanity is driven by power, domination and materialism and we are losing sight of compassion, understanding and the real will for peace
Michael Baker, Ipswich

I doubt whether Dr Tonge really does understand what motivates homicide bombers. It is not the desperation of the situation so much as the indoctrination of a virulent hatred based on religious notions of an afterlife in paradise. The latest female bomber a mother of two children used her sacrifice as a means of atoning for her infidelity and to avoid becoming the object of an honour killing.
Dr. M. Kahan, London

In what way are Jenny Tonge's comments controversial? By the way, I am totally against suicide bombers of any kind but even I can see why they are doing it. Until the day we live in the shoes of the Palestinian people we will never know what we will do in their situation. No one gives up their comfortable life willingly, a desperate life I am not too sure about. Most people in this country don't have to care much beyond where their next pint will come from so what do they know about desperation.
David, Walthamstow

It is a very difficult situation
R. Agar-Hutton, UK
How sad that someone in a public position says something so thoughtless. I have great sympathy for the Palestinians but I also have great sympathy for the Israelis. It is a very difficult situation that hopefully (and sooner rather than later) will be resolved by people coming together in compromise and mutual understanding.
R. Agar-Hutton, UK

Yet again another MP who spouts off with her mouth before engaging her brain.
Harry Campbell, Florence, Italy

Condoning terrorism and understanding what drives people to do it are two different things and I don't find her comments at all objectionable.
Philippa, UK

Freedom of speech is one of the most basic human rights, whether you agree with what's being said or not.
Jason Miles, Reading, UK

We need to recognise their grievances
Pete Tedder, Brentwood, Essex
We need to understand why people are driven to such extremes as using themselves as weapons. We need to recognise their grievances. But understanding why they do it doesn't prevent us condemning it.
Pete Tedder, Brentwood, Essex

Dr Tonge has as much right to express her opinion as anyone else, regardless of whether or not other people agree with her. You and I may find it objectionable and unacceptable, but that doesn't mean she's not entitled to say what she feels. That's the joy of living in a free, liberal and democratic society.
Roddy, London, UK

A good piece of advice: more careful selection of words, then no one could misunderstand you.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

Why all the fuss? She has every right to say what she thinks. Do we not have the right anymore?
Sally Bunyan, UK

If we are to resolve the problems in the Middle East we must be able/ willing to understand why these appalling acts are committed
Tim, England
Yes her comments were controversial but she does have an important point, that is: if we are to resolve the problems in the Middle East we must be able/ willing to understand why these appalling acts are committed. It is very easy to dismiss her as inciting violence whilst losing track of what's important.
Tim, England

Do you have freedom of speech over there or not? If you do, it must include MPs as well. I have always appreciated honesty. Maybe because it is so rare.
Thomas J. Corcoran, Dalby, Sweden

However "advisedly" Dr Tonge made her silly remark, she should be prepared to withdraw it and admit that under no circumstances would she ever consider being a suicide bomber.
Ken, UK

What is all this fuss about? All she is saying is that she understands the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Stefan Davey, UK

Such a comment is outrageous. It is precisely why the Lib Dems will never get into a realistic position to win an election.
Greg Sherwood, London

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict has long reached the point where blame cannot be solely attributed to one side or the other. It is high time the international community, should it honestly want to somehow help settle the ongoing conflict, stopped taking sides and impartially focus on the seemingly impossible task of a peaceful resolution.
Christian, Berlin, Germany

Dr Tonge has drawn attention to the root causes of terrorism, namely poverty and injustice. Addressing these concerns (or provoking debate around them) will do more to bring about peace than mindless violence on both sides.
Mark, Birmingham

Violence against unarmed civilians is morally incorrect whoever is doing it. I do not support Israel's actions and view them as terrorism, but neither do I support the Palestinian bombers.
Jonathan Shields, Brentwood, Essex

Ms Tonge's remarks are as objectionable as Robert Kilroy-Silk's.
Trevor, Somerset




SEE ALSO:
MP stands by bomber remarks
23 Jan 04  |  Politics


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