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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Ethnic groups not 'search target'
Armed police
Police have stepped up their presence since the London attacks
Police should not rule anyone out when using stop and search powers to prevent further bomb attacks, Home Office minister Hazel Blears has said.

She spoke after British Transport Police suggested young ethnic minority men were more likely to be stopped.

Ms Blears said she had "never, ever endorsed" the use of racial profiling.

"You can equally have white people who could be the subject of intelligence", she told the BBC. "I don't accept it is right simply to target groups."

Ms Blears began a series of meetings with Muslim leaders on Tuesday in an attempt to improve community relations.

Package of powers

The BTP had said it did not intend to "single out" any particular community.

But a spokesman said it would "target the people who we think are maybe involved... it may be disproportionate when it comes to ethnic groups".

Exercise this power on the basis of the intelligence available to you and you explain that to communities
Hazel Blears

In the past Mrs Blears has said she believed innocent Muslims would accept that they may be more likely to be targeted in the search for Islamic extremists.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday: "I have said time and time again to police in the guidance I have issued that you exercise this power on the basis of the intelligence available to you and you explain that to communities.

"That is the way you get their trust and confidence."

The minister said stop-and-search had to form part of a "package of powers".

"Tackling terrorism is absolutely dependent on the confidence of these communities to feel that they can come forward, give information and be part of the fight against this threat," she said.

'Extraordinary times'

The BTP remarks prompted the legal adviser to the National Black Police Association's to say people from ethnic minorities would understand being stopped by police after the London bomb attacks.

Ch Supt Ali Dizaei said this would be true as long as people were treated courteously and given an explanation.

"These are extraordinary times and people are committed from all communities to work together with the police in order to sort this problem out," he said.

But civil rights group Liberty said terrorists could just use bombers with a different profile to avoid targeted stops by police officers.

And Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala warned the strategy could be "counter-productive".

"While it is understandable that the police need to undertake every step to thwart would-be bombers it is crucial that they do not unnecessarily alienate and stigmatise an entire segment of society," he said.

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