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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Blair continues alliance building
Tony Blair with other ministers and the six African presidents at Chequers
Tony Blair hosts talks with African leaders on Tuesday
Six African leaders have joined Tony Blair in pledging to "rid the world of terrorism" as the UK prime minister tried to act as an alliance builder in the wake of the attacks on America.

In a flurry of international talks, Mr Blair has also spoken by telephone to Chinese President Jiang Zemin and will meet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in coming days.

Blair's shuttle diplomacy
Tuesday - talks with African leaders at Chequers, phone talks with Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin
Wednesday - talks in Berlin with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Thursday morning - talks with President Chirac in Paris
Thursday - flies to Washington and New York
Friday - EU summit in Brussels
Mr Blair is flying to the US on Thursday, where he hopes to visit New York to meet the emergency services, and some of the relatives of the British people who were killed there.

With Downing Street warning that "difficult decisions and choices" lie ahead in the battle against terrorism, he will hold talks with US President George W Bush in Washington.

Mr Blair, who spoke the president of Pakistan by telephone on Monday, before meeting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has already pledged backing to President Bush over any US response to the attacks.

A joint statement was issued the meeting with the presidents of Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania at Mr Blair's Chequers country retreat on Tuesday.

'Tireless campaign'

Stressing solidarity with the US, the statement said they pledged to work tirelessly in all relevant international forums "to strengthen international co-operation, to cut off financial support to terrorists and to dismantle terrorist networks wherever they exist".

Earlier Downing Street also said that the prime minister had held "useful and constructive" telephone talks with China's Premier Jiang Zemin.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin spoke to Blair by telephone
The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Mr Zemin had said China denounced the "horrifying terrorist acts".

But it quoted him stressing the need for "conclusive evidence and specific targets" in action against terrorism, as well as avoiding harm to "innocent ordinary people".

Aside from his coalition-building efforts, Mr Blair also acted on the fears of British Muslims amid reports of reprisal attacks in the UK.

Writing in the Muslim newspaper the Daily Jang, the prime minister said: "Blaming Islam [for the US terror attacks] is as ludicrous as blaming Christianity for Loyalist attacks on Catholics or Nationalist attacks on Protestants in Northern Ireland."

Manhattan shrine

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said no decisions about military retaliation had been taken so far but he pledged "determined and robust action" when the time came.

General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, the former commander-in-chief of Allied forces in northern Europe, suggested that military action was not imminent and in fact might be delayed for a few months.

He said: "We are bound in this sense not to engage in a blind hitting-out activity which would simply give comfort to the people who are amongst the main terrorist group and would make us look very foolish because it shows that we have insufficient information on which to act."

The British public appears to be backing military reprisals against those responsible for the attacks.

An ICM poll for Tuesday's Guardian newspaper found that 66% of the 1,007 people questioned supported military action, with just 14% opposed to strikes.

News of Mr Blair's US visits came as a shrine was established in Manhattan for the estimated 250 Britons who died in the attacks.

Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Blair held talks with the Italian prime minister
After the visit, he will attend an emergency session of EU leaders on Friday in Brussels.

Chancellor Gordon Brown pointed to the international co-operation at work on the economic front through interest rate cuts, efforts to keep the price of oil stable and a drive against terrorist money laundering.

"I believe there is a determination not just that we never succumb to terrorism but that we will do everything we can, working together, to maintain the conditions for stability and growth," he told BBC News.

As the first British relatives of those killed in the attacks began to fly out to New York, the British ambassador to the US established a shrine to those who were killed there.

Sir Christopher Meyer laid a bouquet of the flowers at The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, near Battery Park, Manhattan - the closest church to the World Trade Center.

The BBC's John Pienaar
"Britain could play a vital role"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
says global co-operation is essential in the fight against terrorism
The BBC's Paul Adams
"As America prepares to go to war, Moscow's co-operation is vital"
Military analyst Michael O'Hanlon
"The more Nato countries that contribute to this mission the better"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | UK
Heroic Britons missing
17 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair's balancing act
17 Sep 01 | Business
Job fears at UK airlines
17 Sep 01 | Business
UK airlines 'need government aid'
18 Sep 01 | Europe
Minister to meet airline heads
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