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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Straw backs BBC Taleban interview
Taleban fighter
During the interview, the Taleban said suicide attacks would increase
Commons leader Jack Straw has defended the BBC's decision to broadcast an interview with a Taleban spokesman.

The report had been "informative" and "good" and it was "important to see the nature of these people", he told MPs.

Tory MP Julian Lewis had demanded a ministerial statement on the broadcast of "unalloyed Taleban propaganda".

But Mr Straw said "independence of journalism" was one the BBC's strengths and it must not be directly influenced, "particularly" by ministers or MPs.

"The difference is that in Taleban-controlled territory, anybody who steps out of line is killed.

"We are a democracy, and we are fighting for democracy in Afghanistan.

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"Our brave soldiers are bringing peace and stability to that country."

"I am happy to pass on your concerns to the director general of the BBC," Mr Straw told Mr Lewis.

The New Forest East MP had said allowing the Taleban to air "views that are well known and yet observe no normal recognised laws and customs of war" would lower the morale of UK troops "fighting the most intensive campaign since the Korean war" and their families.

The BBC said it was "entirely legitimate" to air the Taleban's views.

Dr Mahammed Anif told Newsnight that the UK and US had wanted an "excuse" to invade Afghanistan and foreign armies would be thrown out of the country.

During the interview, with the BBC's David Loyn, other members of a Taleban group in Helmand province were also filmed vowing to fight to the death against the British troops.
Americans used force and attacked us - they invaded our country and occupied it
Dr Mahammed Anif
Taleban spokesman

In the film, broadcast on Wednesday, a Taleban fighter who gave his name as Mullah Assad Akhond said: "We see the English as our enemy since the time of the Prophet Mohammed. They are our enemies now and they were then.

"We will fight them to our death. We will not let them into our country. They can't deceive us about their propaganda that they are here for reconstruction or rebuilding this country."

Another member, Hajimullah Wahidullah, warned the group planned to step up suicide bombings - rare in Afghanistan until recently.

Meanwhile, Dr Anif - who the BBC said was giving his first broadcast interview as an official spokesman for the group - said: "Americans used force and attacked us. They invaded our country and occupied it.

'Disgusted'

"They killed our women and children. That's why mujahideen want to throw them out of the country.

"Democracy set up under the shadow of B52 bombers and elections held under the shadow of F16s is not acceptable for the Afghan nation."

The spokesman also denied claims that the Taleban had burnt down many schools, which they accuse of teaching children non-Islamic values.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the interview was "obscene" and accused the BBC of broadcasting propaganda on behalf of Britain's enemies.

Reporter David Loyn made the Taleban's intention to increase suicide attacks patently clear
BBC statement

"I am disgusted that the BBC should broadcast an interview with a Taleban 'adviser' while our troops are being murdered by them," he said.

In a statement, the BBC said: "It was entirely legitimate for BBC News to broadcast the Taleban's views.

"Reporter David Loyn made the Taleban's intention to increase suicide attacks patently clear.

"BBC News also regularly reports on the British troops and have interviewed their officers and soldiers on many occasions."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The Taleban give an interview to the BBC



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