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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 13:38 GMT
Tory leader criticises war 'confusion'
Afghan man sells bread in Kabul
Duncan Smith: Images of civilians cause unease
The UK opposition leader says Prime Minister Tony Blair is in danger of losing domestic support for the war on terrorism.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith says the government is guilty of issuing "confusing messages" about the objectives of the military offensive in Afghanistan.

We must make sure that people who are worried understand the purpose of what we are doing

Iain Duncan Smith
But the suggestion was rejected by a spokesman for Mr Blair who listed what he said were the government's clear objectives.

Despite Mr Duncan Smith stressing he was still fully behind the government's war efforts, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "puzzled" by the criticism.

It came as Mr Blair arrived in the Middle East on his latest diplomatic mission.

The prime minister, in an article in Wednesday's Mirror newspaper, said the aim of the Afghanistan campaign remained clear - to catch Osama Bin Laden, chief suspect for the 11 September US terror attacks.

'Unease growing'

But Mr Duncan Smith, in his own newspaper article and a series of broadcast interviews, said despite the prime minister's efforts public unease was growing.

"In the last few days there have been confusing messages," the Tory leader told BBC Breakfast.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: Bombing should not be halted
"The important thing when we are in a conflict like this, which I believe the prime minister understands, is that you need to sing from the same hymn sheet, there needs to be a clear message.

"Most particularly most of the concerns need to be explained away in a way that the public understands."

Number 10 however insisted that there was no lack of clarity in Britain's objectives in the war in Aghanistan.

They include bringing Osama Bin Laden and leader of his al-Qaeda terror network to justice to prevent him posing a continued terrorist threat, the destruction of his training camps, and the isolation of the Taleban.

There was also the long-term goal of reconstructing Afghanistan and helping to establish a broad based government there.

Mr Duncan Smith welcomed Mr Blair's speech on Tuesday - in which people were urged to "never forget" the reasons for the campaign - but said it was not enough, suggesting ministers should tour the country spelling out the war aims.

Terror warning

Mr Duncan Smith said delivering humanitarian aid was critical, but added that suspending the bombing was pointless because the Taleban had prevented much of it getting through.

The need for sustained aerial bombing and the need to attack the Taleban for their refusal to hand over Osama Bin Laden also both needed urgent explanation, he went on.

"To those who say 'stop, we mustn't do this', I say: 'It will only get worse'.

"11 September will be repeated again and again, possibly in London, possibly in other cities around the world."

Blair confident

He denied he was making "mischief" while Mr Blair was abroad on a diplomatic mission, saying: "I remain absolutely supportive of the government's aims and objectives."

Jack Straw, on a visit to Moscow, said the government had put a "huge" amount of effort into trying to explain the aims of military action.

"What we are dealing with here is what we have been dealing with all along, a very complex military challenge, which is why patience is needed," he said.

I am completely confident we will get the mass murderer Osama Bin Laden, of that I have absolutely no doubt

Tony Blair

Mr Duncan Smith was entitled to his view, but the foreign secretary added: "We always recognised that at this stage into a military campaign when a lot is happening but the tangible results were not making headlines, we would have to ratchet up the explanations."

Mr Blair arrived in the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday evening to discuss the international campaign against terrorism and the possible revival of Middle East peace talks.

The trip is also understood to be taking him to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In the Mirror newspaper Mr Blair insisted that the allied effort would be successful in capturing Bin Laden.

And he wrote: "When people say why are you going against this Taleban regime, why are you engaging in this campaign, we are engaging in it because the Taleban regime are sheltering Bin Laden".

Leader of the Oppostion Iain Duncan Smith MP
"In the past few days there have been confusing messages"
The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"The Conservative leader says the government has failed to explain the war"
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"This is a difficult time for Mr Duncan Smith"

Key stories


War view



See also:

31 Oct 01 | Middle East
Blair in Damascus for terrorism talks
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
We will not falter, says Blair
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Muslim scepticism at Blair speech
29 Oct 01 | UK
A touch of the wobblies?
29 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Who is winning the war?
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
UK Taleban fighters 'commit treason'
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Straw visits Russia to 'build trust'
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
UK Taleban fighters face treason charge
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