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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 17:11 GMT
Memorials planned for terror victims
Armed Afghan fighter and woman in Burka
Mr Straw expressed optimism for the immediate future
The Taleban and the al-Qaeda terror network will not be allowed to forget the atrocities of 11 September, Downing Street has pledged.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman used a news conference to hit back at the Taleban's appeal for the US terror attacks to be forgotten.

It seems the Taleban would have us forget one atrocity just as they are turning their minds to another

Tony Blair's spokesman
The spokesman instead talked of plans to create a permanent memorial in London to the British victims of the attacks - probably in Grosvenor Square Gardens, close to the American Embassy.

The Queen and Mr Blair will next week attend a memorial service for the British victims at Westminster Abbey.

Never forget

The Taleban said at a news conference that they would fight to the death in the provinces they still control and urged the US to forget about the 11 September attacks.

Mr Blair's spokesman told reporters: "We will make sure they and the world as a whole do not forget."

He said the "latest wheeze" was to offer a reward for the head of President George Bush.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw says he is going to listen
"It seems they would have us forget one atrocity just as they are turning their minds to another."

The new UK government document quotes media reports of atrocities which Downing Street said the Taleban and al-Qaeda would rather see forgotten.

Mr Blair's spokesman moved again to deny reports that the UK wanted more humanitarian aid while the US focus was on the hunt for terror prime suspect Osama Bin Laden.

No one was more committed to catching Bin Laden than the British, he said, while America was providing 80% of the food aid to Afghanistan.

Stopping extremism

"That commitment is the best way to stop terrorists and extremists from seeking to re-establish themselves," the spokesman continued.

He pointed to success in getting aid into the war-torn country, with a UK International Development Department presence now established in Afghan capital Kabul.

The comments come after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said a fledgling civil administration in Afghanistan could be in place within a week.

Northern Alliance soldiers
There is division over the Northern Alliance's role
Speaking from Tehran before talks with his Iranian counterpart, Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Mr Straw also repeated government denials of a split with America over committing more troops to Afghanistan.

And although he said he understood International Development Secretary Clare Short's frustration over getting aid into Afghanistan he argued that the situation in the country was far better than it had been a few days ago.

"Despite the reputation of the Northern Alliance and other partisan groups, they have agreed to meet outside Afghanistan under the aegis of the United Nations, and it looks as though there could be the beginnings of a civil administration starting," Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Progress prediction

"Broad-based, multi-ethnic, as we want within a week," he added.

A meeting in Bonn in Monday will be the first time rival factions from inside Afghanistan and from emigre groups have agreed to sit down together.

Mr Straw also confirmed that British forces - probably the SAS - are actively helping US units locate prime terrorist suspect Osama Bin Laden.

The confirmation came as he denied the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance was opposed to their presence in the country.

Dr Kharrazi warned the issue was very sensitive for Afghans, saying: "Never have they been happy for any foreign troops to be stationed in their country."

On Friday, Mr Straw will travel on to Islamabad to try to secure Pakistan's support for a multi-ethnic Afghan government.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
reports on Mr Straw's meeting with the Northern Alliance's Dr Abdullah Abdullah
See also:

21 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Straw set for new diplomatic drive
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Nations unite to rebuild Afghanistan
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
21 Nov 01 | Americas
US wary of peacekeeping
25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
24 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Straw's visit divides Iran
22 Nov 01 | Middle East
UK mission to Afghan neighbours
21 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Minister hits out at troop delay
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