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Saturday, 13 October, 2001, 22:32 GMT 23:32 UK
Blair's warning over casualties
US F-14 fighter jet is prepared for take-off from USS Enterprise aircraft carrier
Military air strikes of Afghanistan continue
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned Britain to prepare for casualties as air strikes continue on Afghanistan.

Mr Blair told The Observer that he could not see an alternative to military action against the Taleban if Osama bin Laden's terrorism was to be defeated.


We obviously do everything we can to limit the possibility of casualties among men and women when we send them into action

Tony Blair
Meanwhile an opinion poll for the paper found that public backing for military action remains high.

He said there were always risks where military action was involved.

"We obviously do everything we can to limit the possibility of casualties among men and women when we send them into action.

"You have to decide what you believe is right and recognise it is a very heavy responsibility.

"You don't do it if there's an alternative.

"But, right from the very beginning, I've not understood what the alternative can be."

However International Development Secretary Clare Short has elsewhere stressed that any possible action by land forces in the war against terror would be very carefully targeted.

"There isn't going to be a mass land invasion. There will be some activity," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Middle East security

In his interview with The Observer Mr Blair insisted that the United States, Britain and the other allies were doing their best to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Blair with Air Vice Marshal Glenn Torpy, commander of British Forces in Oman
Blair visited British troops in Oman last week
The prime minister spoke of creating a ceasefire period that would allow negotiations to start between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

"You need to construct at least the right platform of security so that people feel they're not seeing funerals on their television screens, heightening the tension and anger and bitterness, then the violence."

On Monday he is due to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in London on Monday to discuss the international terror crisis.

The UK has been keen to downplay the prospect of military action being targeted at countries other than Afghanistan such as Iraq.

Mr Blair told the paper the first phase was action in Afghanistan against the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks.

"That is action we've discussed, considered, deliberated upon and taken.

"When we move to the second phase, which is about tackling terrorism in all its forms, how it is financed, how these groups operate, how they acquire weapons - then that's something we have to discuss with our partners," he said.

Public support

Mr Blair said domestic issues had not been forgotten with a speech on Tuesday on the reform of public services.

"I am well aware that when this crisis has passed, this is what we'll be judged on, and this is what I'll be judged on," said Mr Blair.

An opinion poll for The Observer by YouGov Opinion Research found that public backing for military action remains high.

A total of 75% said that the campaign should continue even if it entailed deaths among members of the British military.

Some 70% said they would still support action if more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result.

YouGov drew its results from 1,628 online respondents in the 24 hours to noon on Saturday.

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The BBC's Paul Adams
"Blair is warning Britain must be prepared"

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13 Oct 01 | South Asia
US renews assault on Afghanistan
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