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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 14:40 GMT
Iraq war 'fuelling UK terrorism'
British troops in Basra
Iraq 'has been used as an excuse' for terror, says Downing Street
Downing Street has distanced itself from leaked papers suggesting Iraq is fuelling terrorism, stressing they were not drawn up by its officials.

The papers demand a "significant reduction in the number and intensity of the regional conflicts that fuel terror activity".

In future Britain should "aim to reduce terror activity, especially that in or directed against the UK," they add.

The Sunday Telegraph says the memo was written by "senior Cabinet officials".

The newspaper says it was put before a Cabinet committee on security earlier this month and was circulated around ministers and security chiefs.

Downing Street stressed the memo was not written by its officials but refused to comment further on its contents, beyond echoing Tony Blair's recent comments on the link between Iraq and terrorism.

'Hostile'

A spokesman said: "We recognise that people have used Iraq as an excuse for terrorist activity but clearly plenty of terrorist activity against the UK and its citizens has pre-dated that.

Any remaining deployments of the British armed forces should be seen as contributing to international stability and security
Leaked papers

"Right around the world there are plenty of examples of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-style attacks that happened well before 2003."

According to the Sunday Telegraph the documents say that, in an ideal world, "the Muslim would not perceive the UK and its foreign policies as hostile".

They demand a "significant reduction in the number and intensity of the regional conflicts that fuel terror activity".

'Peaceful'

The papers then set out a list of perfect scenarios in a series of troublespots - including stability for Iraq and Afghanistan -10 years from now.

As well as Israel living in "peaceful coexistence" with its Arab neighbours and Iran devoid of nuclear weapons, they say that there should be "no new failed states, dictatorships or wars" in the Middle East and South Asia.

"If all or most of the above were in place, threats from other sources of Islamic terrorism (eg Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria) would be manageable or on the way to resolution," they conclude.

"Any remaining deployments of the British armed forces should be seen as contributing to international stability and security." Actions should be designed to reduce terrorism, "especially that in or directed against the UK".

'Impatient'

The memo is understood to have originated from the Cabinet Office.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett meanwhile played down the suggestion that large numbers of British troops might be returned home soon.

"I think you're perhaps a little impatient to see a huge change, which I don't think we are yet in," she told The Sunday Telegraph.

Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell said it was time to engage with the UN to facilitate the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

"The issue for us now is to realise we have made a mistake in Iraq," the left-wing MP told BBC One's Sunday AM.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell told the same programme was it was clear the UK's actions in Iraq had "increased" the risk of terror attacks at home.

He called for a "phased withdrawal" of British troops, adding: "I have no doubt whatsoever that plans are already being drawn up in the ministry of defence for that, because you don't just walk out".

Commons debate

Conservative leader David Cameron said he did not want to set an "artificial timetable" for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and the goal remained "stability".

But he said "mistakes" should be admitted and the coalition should show "humility" over "what has been attempted and what may not be achieved".

The first full commons debate on Iraq in the three years since the invasion will be held on Tuesday.

The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru want a select committee of seven senior MPs to review events leading up to the invasion and since.

The government will oppose any inquiry and with its majority is almost certain to win.


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