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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Blair calls for aid alliance
Refugees in Afghanistan
Years of war and famine has left millions of refugees
Prime Minister Tony Blair has stressed the need to build a humanitarian coalition to tackle the plight of Afghans hit by years of war and famine.

Standing side-by-side with representatives of the UK's Muslim communities in Downing Street, Mr Blair insisted that the UK, the US and other allies had no quarrel with Islam or the people of Afghanistan.


Our fight is not with Islam or with the people of Afghanistan

Tony Blair
But he repeated his warning to the Taleban that if they continued to offer sanctuary to those thought to be behind the terror attacks in New York and Washington then action would be taken.

The prime minister acknowledged the fight to defeat international terrorism would be a long haul, when he briefed cabinet colleagues on the latest events in a special meeting at Downing Street.

Earlier he told reporters: "Our fight is not with Islam or with the people of Afghanistan. Our fight is with those who planned these terrible atrocities and those who harbour them."

The prime minister refused to be drawn about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's remarks about the "superiority" of Western civilisation.

Shared values

But he stressed that Christianity, Islam and other religions tended to share the same values, which was why they had all united to condemn the terrorist acts in the US.

Mr Blair said that there would be no tolerance of people who used the recent events to "as a convenient cover for racism".

And he moved to quell the fears of people about the current crisis, arguing that ordinary life should not be disrupted.

"We will be vigilant but we must not let these events shake our confidence in ourselves, in our country and in our way of life."

Tony Blair
Tony Blair: Religions' shared values
At the cabinet meeting Mr Blair informed colleagues of the latest military, political, diplomatic and humanitarian developments in the crisis.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "He underlined that the whole process would take time and said that it will be a long haul, but that everyone was determined to get it right."

The late-afternoon meeting came with military action looming and a search underway for associates of 11 of the US hijackers thought to have passed through the UK.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, fresh from a last stop in Egypt, gave details of his efforts to gather support for the coalition against global terrorism.

Mr Straw's trip proved difficult, chiefly when upsetting Israel with reference to 'Palestine' in a press article.

The cabinet also heard from Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who will report back on Wednesday's discussions between Nato ministers in Brussels, attended by America's shadow defence secretary.

Plans to introduce special laws and speed-up others relevant to the anti-terrorism fight were outlined by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Kennedy speech

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, in his keynote speech to the party conference in Bournemouth, urged Mr Blair to tread carefully.

He offered support for action to tackle international terrorism - but warned against Britain writing the US a "blank cheque".


The Conservative Party will co-operate where co-operation is necessary and will ask serious questions where those are necessary

Iain Duncan Smith
He wants to shake-up the UK's extradition measures over the next few months as part of the wider effort to undermine international terrorism.

The Conservative Party have offered their support in a range of areas where they believe legislation could changed or tightened up to help in the fight against terrorism.

The Tories are also calling for immediate changes to the Human Rights Act.

"I want the British people to recognise that the Conservative Party will co-operate where co-operation is necessary and will ask serious questions where those are necessary," said new leader Iain Duncan Smith.

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The BBC's Gutto Harri
"The Prime Minister senses a mood of anticipation"

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See also:

27 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN launches Afghan aid appeal
27 Sep 01 | Liberal Democrats
Kennedy will urge caution in terror war
27 Sep 01 | Middle East
Straw rounds off Middle East talks
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
Mid-East truce mapped out
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK-Israel talks 'convivial'
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
24 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK in new Mid-East row
24 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Straw's visit divides Iran
17 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran condemns attacks on US
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Middle East: Building the coalition
25 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK seeks to heal Israel rift
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN launches Afghan aid appeal
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