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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
We will prevail, vows Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith
It was a debut conference appearance as leader
Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has pledged continued support for the government during the military action against terrorism and declared: "We did not pick this fight, but we will win it."

Speaking at the party's annual conference in Blackpool - his first as leader - Mr Duncan Smith insisted "the business of democracy must go on".


By continuing to harbour and sustain them, the Taleban regime have become an accessory to mass murder

Iain Duncan Smith
As at the 1984 conference in Brighton bombed by the IRA, he told party members, they must not give in to the terrorists by curtailing normal life.

Following his short opening address, received with a standing ovation, Mr Duncan Smith immediately set off for London to attend an emergency session of the House of Commons. But he promised: "I'll be back".

He is due to make his keynote speech on Wednesday morning as planned.

Speaking under screens bearing the conference slogan "Security abroad. Security at home", Mr Duncan Smith declared: "On 11 September Bin Laden and his network of terror struck at us all.

"And by continuing to harbour and sustain them, the Taleban regime have become an accessory to mass murder.

Support pledged

"Their actions have dictated our actions. I am resolved that the British Government will receive our support.

"And I assure the American people that President Bush will continue to have our backing in his determination to root out terror in the world.

"This is a war like no other. It will not be resolved in a matter of days. It could take months, it may take years. But nobody should doubt the determination of the Conservative Party to see this through however long it takes."


This is a war like no other. It will not be resolved in a matter of days. It could take months, it may take years

Iain Duncan Smith
Other key figures from the leader's shadow frontbench team and many MPs will also be heading back to Westminster, but they have been urged to return as soon as possible by Tory chiefs.

The party is anxious for the event, already shortened to three days, to proceed as normally as possible, with debate on issues away from the international situation, especially public services.

In his speech immediately following Mr Duncan Smith's, party chairman David Davis paid tribute to the men and women of the UK's armed forces now in action.

"They are fighting to defend the values of democracy and civilisation.

"They are fighting to allow us to continue what we are doing here today."

Women MPs

But he also addressed issues away from the international situation, including the way ahead for the Conservatives since their crushing general election defeat.

He stressed the need to broaden the party's appeal, but ruled out specific measures to increase the numbers of women MPs.

Mr Davis earlier told reporters that despite the likely "sombre" mood it was symbolically important for the conference to carry on.

Monday's planned agenda
Conference opened with short speech by party leader Iain Duncan Smith
Speech by party chairman David Davis
Foreign affairs and defence debate opened by shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram
Local government debate opened by Theresa May
"I think you'll see much less of the knockabout that is normal at party conferences," he said. "It will be much more focused on the raw issues and the central issue."

He stressed the Tories' "determination to carry on and make this [conference] as natural an occurrence as possible considering the circumstances".

Terrorism and the current military action will dominate Monday's agenda as "an important contribution to national unity on the matter and support of our forces", Mr Davis said.

A short debate on local government follows, with Tuesday set to be devoted to the economy and public services.

The focus is likely to switch back to the international situation again by Wednesday, when Mr Duncan Smith will deliver his keynote speech.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative party leader
gives his reaction to Sunday's military strikes
Michael Ancram, deputy party leader
"We will play our full part as the official opposition"
See also:

07 Oct 01 | South Asia
US strikes at Afghan targets
07 Oct 01 | UK
UK forces join attack
07 Oct 01 | Conservatives
Drop Thatcher, Duncan Smith urged
05 Oct 01 | Conservatives
Tories' crisis conference
13 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Rebel's rise to the top
07 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Parliament recalled in wake of strikes
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