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Monday, April 5, 1999 Published at 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK

UK Politics

Blair promises to help refugees

Tony Blair: "We will do whatever is necessary"

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the UK is "ready and willing" to take refugees from Kosovo, but the aim must be to allow them to return home eventually.

The UK is among several countries preparing to take more than 100,000 people away from the over-burdened border areas around Kosovo.

[ image: The UK will be among several countries taking refugees]
The UK will be among several countries taking refugees
The prime minister said Britain would "do whatever is necessary" to help the floods of Kosovo Albanians expelled from their homes.

But he emphasised the ultimate aim of Nato's action was to allow the Kosovans to return to their homes.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Blair said: "These people need to go back to Kosovo, where they live, where they want to be, where their homes are and we will make sure that happens.

"What we mustn't do is get ourselves into a position where we saying, look it is inevitable they can't return, nothing can be done. "

Kosovo: Special Report
The government has declined to say how many refugees could be on their way to the UK.

Mr Blair said: "We stand ready and willing to do whatever is necessary.

"We already have several thousand people from Kosovo here in this country now."

The government was also working with the countries bordering Kosovo to help manage the situation there.

Tony Blair: "Battle between civilisation and barbarity"
Mr Blair said: "Some of these people have come under appalling circumstances, into Macedonia particularly, but also Albania, Montenegro and other countries. We must make sure they are looked after properly there.

"If as part of that, we need to provide assistance for people here, fine. But I emphasise yet again that the key purpose of our policy is to make sure they go back into Kosovo.

"That is the purpose of our military action and that action will be successful in achieving that aim."

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook confirmed that six Tornados took part in Sunday night's Nato operations.

The prime minister said Nato's action had a "devastating effect" on the forces commanded by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

[ image: Tornados took part in Nato operations on Sunday]
Tornados took part in Nato operations on Sunday
Mr Blair said: "This will be a daily pounding until he comes into line with the terms that Nato has laid down.

"It will be something that doesn't happen over night, again, we've said that from the very beginning. We have to be prepared to go on.

"We have to be prepared for the longer haul in order to make sure that our objectives are secured and are successful"

The prime minister underlined his personal resolve to "see this through".

He said: "Milosevic needs to understand that we will not rest or stop until our objectives are secure.

"Those of us who have watched these scenes over the past couple of weeks have not only felt revulsion over what Milosevic is doing but a sense of iron determination that we shall not let that policy of ethnic cleansing succeed.

"If we do, then the whole of the civilised world is the poorer, not just the people of Kosovo.

"This is a battle between civilisation and barbarity and civilisation has to win."

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