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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 04:33 GMT 05:33 UK
Allies want 'justice, not revenge'
Blair gives his interview to Sami Haddad, of Al Jazeera television channel
Blair says the strikes are against terror, not Islam
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has told an Arabic television station that the US and it allies want "justice, not revenge".

Speaking ahead of Tuesday's first meeting of the British war cabinet, he used the interview with Qatari satellite television station Al-Jazeera to counter claims by Osama Bin Laden that the US-led action was aimed at the Islamic world.

I cannot understand how a person who studies Islam and the Koran can justify the killing of 7,000 innocent persons

Tony Blair
His interview came as Britain gave logistical support to the US in the second wave of military strikes against Afghanistan on Monday night.

Elsewhere Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the BBC that Britain had not been directly involved in the second round of military action as an assessment was still being made as to how successful the first missile strikes had been.

Anti-terrorist war

Mr Blair, who recorded the interview as he set up the war cabinet and recalled Parliament, told the Arab world that this was not a war against Muslims, but against terrorists.

Al Jazeera television channel has previously aired a video statement by Osama Bin Laden in which he appeared to threaten the United States.

Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden claimed US action was against the Islamic world
Asked why Bin Laden was not being treated as innocent until proven guilty, Mr Blair said: "Had the Taleban abandoned Bin Laden and handed him over, together with his terrorist network, he would have stood trial.

"This has not happened, and the Taleban refuses to hand over him.

"We are certain the al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden are responsible for what happened (the attacks on the US on 11 September).

No alternative

"Bin Laden praised on your television the perpetrators of the attacks, saying that these acts are right and that they should have been done.

"I cannot understand how a person who studies Islam and the Koran can justify the killing of 7,000 innocent persons.

"So, we act not because we want to act but because we are forced to act.

"We do not want to wage war and enter into conflicts."

Mr Blair told the Arabic channel that Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network posed as big a threat to moderate Arab states as it did to the west.

"This is not about the west versus Islam," he said.

"Decent Muslims, millions of them in European countries have condemned these acts of terrorism in New York and elsewhere in America with every bit as much force as any of the rest of us."

"Let us be clear when we listen to the words of Osama Bin Laden, if he has his way the regimes that he would replace regimes in the Arab world with would be like the Taleban in Afghanistan.

"I don't believe that anybody seriously wants to live under that kind of regime."

In other developments:

  • An emergency session of the House of Commons is held on Monday as Parliament was recalled for a third time since the US terror attacks.

  • British journalist Yvonne Ridley is released by the Taleban after 11 days in captivity.

  • The Muslim Council of Britain issues a statement saying it was "deeply saddened and gravely concerned" about the strikes, which threatened the safety of "the innocent Afghan people".

  • Scotland Yard drafts in more officers to patrol potentially vulnerable parts of London and "reassure" the public.

  • The Tories and the Liberal Democrats back the strikes.

  • The Foreign Office advises Britons in Indonesia to stay inside their homes amid fears of street protests.

  • Six RAF tanker aircraft, two TriStars from 216 Squadron and four VC10s from 10 and 216 squadrons, leave RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire for Akrotiri in Cyprus and possible deployment in the Gulf.

The second wave of attacks aimed at the Taleban's military airfields, tanks and fighters came the day after UK and US air strikes targeted 30 command posts and bases in Afghanistan.

Mr Hoon told BBC 2's Newsnight programme that it was not yet known how successful the Tomahawk missile strikes launched from UK submarines had been.

"Until that assessment is clear it would not be sensible to attack the same targets again," he said.

He conceded that sending in ground troops was "one of the options we are looking at".

On Tuesday, Mr Hoon is due to visit Moscow to further discuss military co-operation with his counterpart Sergei Ivanov.

See also:

08 Oct 01 | Media reports
Al-Jazeera goes it alone
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