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Friday, March 26, 1999 Published at 19:33 GMT


Blair's TV address - Full text

Tony Blair: "Unpardonable weakness and dereliction"

The full text of Prime Minister Tony Blair's television address to the British public on the Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
"I want to explain why what is happening in Kosovo matters, to you, to me, to all of us.

"I want to explain why I may have to send our forces into action again and when I do, I want them to go with the whole country united behind them.

"There are people who say don't act, seek a political solution to Kosovo. Believe me, nobody has tried harder than us.

"We tried for six long months to keep Milosevic to the agreements he made.

"Those agreements were modest enough.

"To stop killing innocent people and driving them from their homes.

"Even now if he stopped, we could talk again.

"To those who say the aim of military strikes is not clear, I say it is crystal clear. It is to curb Milosevic's ability to wage war on an innocent civilian population.

"To those who say Nato is striking at a sovereign nation without justification, I say it is Milosevic who scrapped Kosovo's autonomy.

"90% of its people are not Serbs. Now they had no rights, no justice, no protection.

"250,000 of them homeless. 2,000 killed since last Spring.

"These are our fellow human beings.

"Husbands taken from wives. Fathers taken from children, never to see them again, never knowing if they are dead or alive as they walk, mile upon mile to a safety they may never find.

"Old women humiliated, young men massacred, just for being Albanian, just for being there when the Serb killing machine arrived.

"Our fellow human beings.

"Act or do nothing.

"Do nothing and Milosevic will feel free, to do as he likes with the civilian population.

"They will be ground under his heel at the very moment when these poor defenceless people are begging us to show strength and determination; we would have shown unpardonable weakness and dereliction.

"That is not the tradition of Britain.

"Yes of course there are risks. All military action has its risks, but taking action is the only chance justice has got.

"And Kosovo is part of Europe, a short sea journey from Italy, a short drive from Greece.

"There in the Balkans the First World War began in Sarajevo.

"Five years ago, in Bosnia, we only just averted another war, again started by Milosevic.

"We stopped it then only by standing up to him.

"Fail to act now, and the conflict unleashed by Milosevic would not stop.

"We would have to deal with the consequences of spiralling conflict and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

"So I wanted to speak to you tonight and tell you very directly why I have authorised British forces to join our Nato allies in these attacks. It will be tough. But now that we have begun, I ask your support in seeing it through.

"We must act with total resolve to achieve our aims, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of the future safety of our region and the world.

"I have just been speaking by phone to some of the UK servicemen involved in this operation.

"I can tell you that the longest hours of any prime minister's life are those spent waiting to hear that the crews sent into battle are back safely.

"Far more agonising is the wait for their families.

"They are in our thoughts and prayers tonight.

"I would never expose our brave servicemen and women to those risks unless I believed that I had to.

"We are doing what is right, for Britain, for Europe, for a world that must know that barbarity cannot be allowed to defeat justice.

"That is simply the right thing to do."

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