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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK
Britain 'at war with terrorism'
Blair speaking outside Downing Street
Tony Blair stayed in Downing Street this weekend
The UK is "at war with terrorism", the prime minister has announced as the death toll of British citizens in the US terror attacks is put at between 200 to 300.

Tony Blair described Tuesday's bombardment of the World Trade Center in New York as "the worst terrorist attack there has been on British citizens since the Second World War."

The prime minister has given his strong support to president George W Bush over any US response to the attacks.

But the International Development Secretary Clare Short has issued a stark warning against taking military action which would harm innocent civilians.

In a BBC interview she specifically urged the US not to make life worse for the ordinary people of Afghanistan.


Whatever the technical or legal issues about a declaration of war, the fact is we are at war with terrorism

Tony Blair
Mr Blair spent the weekend in telephone talks with world leaders to discuss the implications of the attacks.

He remained in Downing Street instead of travelling to Chequers, his Buckinghamshire weekend retreat.

Speaking on Sunday, he said: "Probably 200 to 300 people from Britain will have died [in the attacks].

"Whatever the technical or legal issues about a declaration of war, the fact is we are at war with terrorism".

Denial rejected

The government rejected a denial by Osama Bin Laden that he was responsible for the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Bin Laden is reported to have said: "I categorically state that I have not done this," adding it would have been impossible because of restrictions placed on him by the Taleban in Afghanistan.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Bin Laden may put out a statement, but clearly both us and our allies will look carefully at all the evidence before us."

Speaking outside Downing Street on Sunday, Mr Blair said: "This is a situation in which we have got to be prepared to act.


We will act in a calm and a measured and a sensible way as we have done right from the very outset, but act we must

Tony Blair
"We will act in a calm and a measured and a sensible way as we have done right from the very outset, but act we must."

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the UK should stand shoulder to shoulder with the US.

"It's critical we show the rest of the world that we won't be parted from them, we won't allow a glimmer of daylight between us," Mr Duncan Smith told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost.

Mr Blair would not be drawn on whether he was prepared for British casualties in any joint operation.

He said they were still devising the right response to Tuesday's attacks but two things would have to be done.

"The first is to ensure that we take action against those responsible for this terrorist act in which British people as well as American people have lost their lives.

"Secondly we have to take action against the whole machinery of mass terrorism and that's something for the whole international community to get behind."

'Diplomatic hand'

The former Liberal Democrat leader, Lord Ashdown, also sounded a note of caution about mounting an armed response to the attacks.

Speaking on Radio Five Live Lord Ashdown said it was wrong to focus solely on military action and neglect diplomatic efforts.

"We have a serious crisis to manage here and that crisis has two arms and both of them go hand in hand.

"What worries me a bit at the moment is that we are concentrating on the military option.

"What is the military option there for? It is there to support our diplomatic hand," said Lord Ashdown.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair
"We have to assemble the evidence, present it and then pursue those responsible"
The BBC's Kim Barnes
"Reiterated today Osama Bin Laden is America's prime suspect"
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