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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Iraq war 'boost' to al-Qaeda fear
Osama Bin Laden
The threat from al-Qaeda remains
The Iraq conflict may have hampered the battle to defeat international terrorism, an influential group of MPs have warned.

In its latest report, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee also argues that nearly two years on from the 11 September atrocity it cannot conclude the threat from al-Qaeda has diminished.

In fact, the MPs say, the terror organisation continues to pose "a substantial threat to British citizens" and it still has a "dangerously large number of foot soldiers" and the resources to finance terror attacks.

"Al-Qaeda's stance on Iraq, may encourage some misguided individuals to try to commit terrorist acts," the report says.

But Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said the removal of Saddam Hussein had taken away a "sponsor of terrorism".

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "We were right to take military action because of Saddam's failure to comply with [UN resolution] 1441 and in the longer run failure to live up to that challenge would have led to ever greater recruitment ability on the part of al-Qaeda."

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke opposed the war in Iraq
Tory ex-chancellor Ken Clarke told the same programme that he believed it likely that the invasion and occupation of Iraq by US-led forces would boost the terror network.

"We have to make sure that the occupation of Iraq is not the basis for recruitment of lots and lots of wild young men into extremist terrorist groups all over the Muslim world."

The select committee - chaired by Labour's Donald Anderson - said that it would have been desirable to get a further UN resolution on Iraq before resorting to military action.


And the MPs argue that the breakdown of law and order after Saddam Hussein was ousted was "highly probable" and that "the failure of the coalition to restore order more quickly was deeply regrettable".

The report will add further pressure to the government which is still facing criticism for its part in the invasion of Iraq.

The MPs also urge ministers to press the US to ensure the forthcoming trials of two UK citizens held at Guantanamo Bay are conducted "according to international recognised judicial standards and that, if sanctioned by the Crown Prosecution Service, those trials should take place in the United Kingdom".

David Chidgey MP, Lib Dem member of the committee
"There is very, very little evidence that Saddam Hussein was in any way supporting al-Qaeda"


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