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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 September 2005, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Blair lambasts 'fringe fanatics'
A British armoured vehicle is attacked in Basra
Fire bombs against UK troops have proved an abiding image
"Fringe fanatics" are behind the upsurge in violence in Iraq, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Mr Blair defended his Iraq policy in the wake of the recent attacks on British troops.

The way to stop innocent people dying was not to pull out troops but to stand up for democracy in Iraq, he told delegates in Brighton.

He also said Britain should stick with America in the face of terrorism.

'Defending democracy'

Attacks on British troops who freed two SAS soldiers arrested by Iraqi forces last week have fuelled calls for a time-tabled exit strategy.

But Mr Blair told Labour delegates the struggle against global terrorism was at its fiercest in Iraq.

He urged people to remember the 8.5 million people who turned out to vote in Iraq in January.

"The way to stop the innocent dying is not to retreat, to withdraw, to hand these people over to the mercy of religious fanatics or relics of Saddam but to stand up for their right to decide their government in the same democratic way the British people do" he said.

Love Actually

Mr Blair said Muslims abhorred violence and "fringe fanatics" were using Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine to justify their campaign.

"Strip away their fake claims of grievance and see them for what they are: terrorists who use 21st century technology to fight a pre-medieval religious war that is utterly alien to the future of mankind" he said.

I know there's a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off
Tony Blair

Mr Blair said the UK could have "hidden away" after 11 September and let other nations take the strain - but that was not the way of Britain or Labour. Britain should remain America's "strongest ally" he argued.

"I know there's a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off" he said.

"But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there's the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause.

"I never doubted after September 11 that our place was alongside America and I don't doubt it now.

"And for the very simple reason terrorism struck most dramatically in New York but it was aimed then, and is aimed now, at us all, at our way of life."

Hear Charles Clarke's thoughts on Mr Blair's leadership

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