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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
UK defence forces face shake-up
British soldiers on exercise
The relative strengths of British forces will be reviewed
The make-up of the UK's armed forces will be reviewed as a result of the new threats from international terrorists, defence secretary Geoff Hoon told the Labour Party conference.

There is speculation regarding an expanded role for SAS-type forces in a military geared to tackle terrorists as well as more traditional conflicts.


We must have the right concepts, the right levels of forces and the right capabilities to meet the additional challenges we face from international terrorism conducted on this scale

Geoff Hoon

The review was announced during a session in which foreign secretary Jack Straw appealed to Labour Party members to back action against a Taleban regime he likened to the Nazis.

Announcing the review, Mr Hoon said: "As a result of the attacks on the United States we will be looking again at how we organise our defence.

"This will not be a new strategic defence review but an opportunity if necessary to rebalance our existing efforts.

"We must have the right concepts, the right levels of forces and the right capabilities to meet the additional challenges we face from international terrorism conducted on this scale."

Humanitarian catastrophe

Earlier, Mr Straw had launched a rallying cry to Labour party members by warning against a repetition of the mistakes of those who believed they could appease Fascism in the 1930s.


Like Fascists, these people are driven by hate, by violence and by destruction

Jack Straw
Mr Straw was joined on the conference stage by International Development Secretary Clare Short.

Ms Short warned that the people of Afghanistan were on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe and called for an international effort to combat poverty.

The foreign secretary said those people who were behind the terror attacks could not be dealt with by negotiation or reason.

"Like Fascists, these people are driven by hate, by violence and by destruction.

"Their activities are amongst the greatest threats to peace and security across the world," he said.

Mr Straw said that every weapon would have to be deployed to undermine the roots and causes of international terrorism.

'Perverted ideology'

"It is a fight against the perverted ideology of terrorism, an ideology which has no regard for human life, not even the lives of its adherents," he said.

Mr Straw accepted that people were anxious about the current crisis.

"We have to be vigilant, but we have to be calm too, and need to recognise that we have truly faced greater dangers in the past and yet come through stronger, not least because of the timeless strength of our values."

Ms Short said: "The catastrophe in America displayed a more vicious, far-reaching and globalised organisation of terrorism than the world has ever seen before.

"We are all agreed that we need strong international co-operation to bring to justice those who planned and organised this outrage.

'Catastrophe'

"But we must work with equal determination to bring humanitarian relief to the Afghan people who have suffered 20 years of war and four years of drought and are on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe."

An international effort was needed to combat poverty because there would never be global stability without social justice, she argued.

"That is our task - to redouble our efforts to ensure that justice and development, rather than conflict and division, prevail in this new century."

Mr Hoon insisted that UK had no quarrel with the Afghan people.

He also said that military action alone was not the answer "but there may not be an answer where military action does not play a vital part".

Review worries

The defence secretary had warm words for the British armed forces who were "among the best, if not the best in the world".

Mr Hoon says the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) three years ago did look at attacks from terrorists but more work was needed because of the appalling scale of the latest atrocities.

Military experts argue there were worries after the review that UK troops would be more overstretched and that the emphasis was put on going to meet crises in constant "away matches".

Rear Admiral Richard Cobbold told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "I think what has happened since 11 September is that the possibility of having home matches, where the enemy bring their weapons into the homeland of the UK, has become a real possibility."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams
"It's all about flexibility"
James Grey, Conservative Defence Spokesman
"We very much support what the government are doing"
Bruce George, chairman of Commons Defence Committee
"The SDR did an excellent report"
See also:

02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Time's up, Blair warns Taleban
16 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Call for caution over military action
18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair's war team
27 Sep 01 | Middle East
Straw rounds off Middle East talks
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
Israel snubs UK Government
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