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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
MPs debate 'act of war'
MPs join Friday's three minutes' silence
MPs break from debate to join a silent tribute
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw branded the US atrocities a "deliberate act of war" as he led an emergency Commons debate on the implications of the terror attacks.

"To turn the other cheek would not appease the terrorists but would led to a still greater danger," he warned.


It would be quite wrong for British Muslims to be tarred with the same brush following this dreadful act of terrorism

Kahlid Mahmood
Birmingham MP
The recalled Parliament began the debate on Friday after statements from Prime Minister Tony Blair and new Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

MPs united in condemning the attacks but some warned that retaliation could make it easier to recruit terrorists.

Mr Straw's comments were backed by shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram, who said the "vile and barbarous attacks" represented an implicit threat "to the rest of the civilised world".

"The simple priority now must be the pursuit and total eradication of this terrorist threat," he continued.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell warned against the danger of "rich man's justice".

He pressed for a proportionate response based on sound intelligence and consistent with the principles of international law.

Stark warning

Labour MP George Galloway went further in urging caution and said millions of people in Arab and Muslim countries believe the west guilty of "monumental double standards".

The long-term critic of Allied policy in Iraq continued: "If you launch a devastating attack upon a Muslim country, killing thousands you will make 10,000 Bin Ladens rise up."

But Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack said the strength of feeling provoked by the atrocities should not be underestimated.

Likening the mood in the Commons to that seen after the Falklands invasion, he said: "I have rarely found the house more united in grief, in anger and in resolve."

Britain's relationship with America was raised in many speeches but Labour veteran Dennis Skinner was met with cries of shame when he criticised President George Bush.

Donald Anderson, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee
Anderson: Against an invasion of Afghanistan
Mr Skinner said: "There's a world of difference between standing shoulder to shoulder with the American people and the fight for justice than hanging on to the coat tails of of an American President whose first act when those firefighters were standing 10 feet tall amongst the rubble in the World Trade Centre, was to scurry off to his bunker."

Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman Donald Anderson instead praised the US for resisting the temptation of a "reckless swipe at an unknown enemy".

While he accepted some form of military response was inevitable, Mr Anderson argued an invasion of Afghanistan would not deter such figures as prime suspect Osama bin Laden.

Key to counter-terrorism

The hunt for the perpetrators was addressed by former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, who said intelligence was the key to counter-terrorism.

"It can't be done without recruiting agents from the same communities from which the terrorist organisations draw their own membership.

"The James Bonds of the future are not going to be found in the Travellers' Club, in The Athenaeum, they are going to be found on the streets of Bradford and Marseilles."

All three main party leaders have emphasised that even if Islamic fundamentalists are incriminated, the vast majority of Muslims shared their shock at the attacks.

Tory MP John Butterfill said hardline bigots with some "religious objective" needed to be sought out and he also said immigration policy was essential in protecting Britain.

Saying 5,000 Afghans had arrived in Britain in the last six months, he continued: "Of course, I believe the majority of them are fleeing and in genuine fear of persecution.

"But we cannot rule out the real possibility that amongst them are terrorists here for a very different reason."

No asylum link

Earlier, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy emphasised MPs should send a signal that the attacks should not be linked to issues of race and asylum.

And Birmingham Perry Barr MP Kahlid Mahmood condemned the attackers, who have killed Muslims too.

"It would be quite wrong for British Muslims to be tarred with the same brush following this dreadful act of terrorism."

Mr Blair told him: "I think the fact that the Council of British Muslims issued a statement of such strength and so quickly, indicates what we know to be true - that those that truly follow the religion of Islam are decent peaceful and law abiding people and they, like us, have often been victims of terrorism and they, like us, want it stamped out."

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"Party politics has been obliterated"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair pledges action against terror
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