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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Labour 'unease' at retaliation plans
Protesters at the United States Air Force base at Lakenheath, Suffolk
Anti-war protests were held across the country
Labour backbenchers have expressed growing unease about the extent of Britain's involvement in the campaign against terrorism launched after the attacks in the US.

A number of MPs are said to be "nervous" about the prospect of military action, fearing that it could encourage a new generation of potential suicide bombers and make the UK a prime target.

Fears have also been expressed that people within the US administration are seeking to use the crisis to "settle old scores" with states like Iraq.


No country can be accuser, investigator, prosecutor and at the same time judge and jury

Mohammed Sarwar
Labour MP
Despite the concerns, Prime Minister Tony Blair has engaged in another round of international diplomacy on Sunday in an attempt to build a global coalition against terrorism.

Mr Blair is ringing the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien and the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Speaking about the sense of unease among backbenchers, Muslim MP Mohammed Sarwar warned that a military solution to the terrorism problem threatened to make the UK the target of terrorists.

Solid evidence

He told BBC One's On the Record that instead of seeking to eliminate the network responsible for the US attacks by military force, the global coalition being constructed by Britain and the US should be aiming to bring the perpetrators before an international court.

"No country can be accuser, investigator, prosecutor and at the same time judge and jury," said the MP for Glasgow Govan.

"My fear is that if the British Government supported American actions outright then there is a real danger that the people, and in particular the people in the Third World countries and Muslims, will regard Britain as the 'yes person' of the USA.

"If Britain sides with America then there is the danger terrorists will target Britain."

Former junior defence minister Peter Kilfoyle
Peter Kilfoyle warned against settling old scores
The chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, Bruce George, said any military strikes by the US and its allies must be based on "solid evidence".

"If there is evidence that any state was providing intelligence to whoever the terrorists are or had provided them with protection, provided them with passports... then it may well be that that country will be targeted," said the Labour MP for Walsall South .

"But if they are targeted the same rules apply and that is it must not be indiscriminate, it must be based on solid evidence."

Former junior defence minister Peter Kilfoyle raised fears that "hawks" in the US administration are seeking to use the crisis to "settle old scores".

'Appalling regimes'

The MP for Liverpool Walton also expressed concern that the US and its allies were "arbitrarily" picking regimes to rally against.

"There are lots of appalling regimes around the world and I think its rather difficult for any one nation or indeed group of nations to arbitrarily pick from amongst those particular regimes that they despise and set out to overthrow," he said.

"The last thing we need to do is encourage a whole new generation of potential suicide bombers."

Protesters at the United States Air Force base at Lakenheath, Suffolk
Over 5,000 protested against military strikes
But the Labour MP for Thurrock, Andrew Mackinlay, said that while many backbenchers were "nervous" about the prospects for military action, there was a widespread recognition that something must be done to counter the terrorist threat.

Over 5,000 protesters gathered across the country on Sunday to express their concerns over possible military strikes.

Anti-war rallies were held in London, Glasgow and Manchester and protesters called for "justice not vengeance".

More than 200 Britons are missing, believed dead, following the atrocities.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell is to visit New York on Wednesday to meet families of those lost in the attacks and to ensure that they are being given adequate support

"I want to ensure that everything that can be done for bereaved families is being done," she said.


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See also:

23 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett warming to ID cards
21 Sep 01 | Americas
A warm New York welcome
20 Sep 01 | Europe
EU gears up to fight terrorism
23 Sep 01 | UK Politics
MPs urge parliament recall
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