Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Tuesday, 26 July 2005 13:34 UK

Blair seeks to tackle Iraq link

By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Tony Blair clearly had some things to get off his chest.

Tony Blair
Blair tackled Iraq link head on
With majority public opinion apparently accepting a link between terrorist attacks on London and the Iraq war, his frustration erupted.

First off, he insisted, he had never said Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorism.

He then went on, in effect, to insist that the argument was irrelevant, even dangerous.

Fanatics would use any excuse for their butchery and their attempts to recruit people to their cause.

But nothing could excuse terror attacks, wherever they happened in the world, he declared.

And the terrorists must not be allowed an excuse, that would only make matters worse.

Wake up call

"They will always have a reason and I am not saying any of these things don't affect their warped reasoning and warped logic as to what they do, or that they don't use these things to try and recruit people.

"But I do say we shouldn't compromise with it. We shouldn't even allow them the vestige of an excuse for what they do. I do not believe we should give one inch to them," he said.

London bomb
No excuse for attacks anywhere
He was patently agitated by the direction of the questioning at his monthly press conference.

But he had obviously come ready to meet head on the growing talk of the link between the war and the London attacks.

And he delivered his case with the same sort of passion he previously argued for the war on Iraq.

Specifically, he spoke about 11 September and admonished those who had, he suggested, already forgotten the lessons of that atrocity.

"September 11 for me was a wake up call. Do you know what I think the problem is? That a lot of the world woke up for a short time and then turned over and went back to sleep again," he said.

Increased threat

What he would not address was whether he believed his actions in Iraq and support for George Bush increased the threat to the UK.

The prime minister's position on all this is now clear.

Iraq casualty
Iraq may be used as an excuse
He is not denying any link between Iraq and terrorism in the UK.

He is arguing that terrorism and the threat of attacks on the UK were already there. And he kept referring back to 11 September.

He is insisting that the "warped ideology" driving the terrorism would have needed to have been tackled in any case, irrespective of whatever decision had been taken on Iraq.

It is an argument many will accept. But, until the issue of the possible link between the war and the terrorism was faced, the prime minister may have found it difficult to get that argument heard.

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