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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 16:34 GMT
Straw 'grilled' by Muslim leaders
Ibrahim Master, Chairman of Lancashire Council of Mosques
Mr Master said he "appreciated" Mr Straw had been able to attend
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has faced a "grilling" from Muslim leaders in Lancashire over a possible war with Iraq.

Mr Straw had a 90-minute discussion with members of Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) in his Blackburn constituency on Friday.

He said he got a "good grilling" and admitted he would prefer to have been with people who back his stance on any potential conflict with Saddam Hussein.

LCM chairman Ibrahim Master said he had stressed the concerns that thousands of innocent lives would be lost if war is declared.

Mr Straw said he had been "among friends".

"It was a good grilling...and people of the Council of Mosques feel very strongly about this issue," he said.

I hope...people come to accept whatever decisions...I and my colleagues...make
Jack Straw
"Everybody in the room was expressing their opposition.

"I would much rather be among friends who said they agree with my position.

"[But] people have very strong opinions... because we are dealing with people's lives, war and peace.

"What I would say is that I hope over time people come to accept whatever decisions that I and my colleagues in parliament make."

Labour councillor Salim Mulla said after the meeting "I think the Foreign Secretary has had one of the biggest grillings he has ever had from Muslim leaders here in Blackburn."

'Dangerous precedent'

During the meeting, some of his colleagues had expressed their view that a war against Iraq was not justified at any cost, with or without a second UN resolution, Mr Mulla said.

Mr Master urged Mr Straw to deal with the crisis through the United Nations Security Council.

"Any attack on Iraq would almost certainly lead to the death of many innocent Iraqi civilians including many women and children," he said.

"It would dangerously destabilise an already unstable region, harm the war on terrorism and set a dangerous precedent for unilateral intervention in the affairs of other nations."

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