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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Benn criticises 'war on terror'
Hilary Benn
Hilary Benn is running in Labour's deputy leadership contest
President George W Bush's concept of a "war on terror" has given strength to terrorists by making them feel part of something bigger, Hilary Benn has said.

The international development secretary told a meeting in New York the phrase gives a shared identity to small groups with widely differing aims.

And Mr Benn, a candidate for Labour's deputy leadership, confirmed that UK officials would stop using the term.

The White House coined the phrase after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

'Disparate groups'

Mr Benn said: "In the UK, we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone.

"And because this isn't us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives."

By letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength
Hilary Benn

It is "the vast majority of the people in the world" against "a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common", he said.

"What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others, without dialogue, without debate, through violence.

"And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength."

'Battle of values'

In a New York meeting organised by the Center on International Cooperation think-tank, Mr Benn will urge world leaders to find common ground with potential enemies, rather than relying on "hard" military power.

"The fight for the kind of world that most people want can, in the end, only be won in a different battle - a battle of values and ideas."

Mr Bush first outlined the concept of a "war on terror" shortly after New York and the Pentagon were attacked by Islamist terror group al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001.

At best it is a superficial approach, at worst a failure to tackle the serious issues
Michael Moore
Lib Dems

"Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there," he told Congress nine days after the attacks.

"It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

Downing Street refused to be drawn on the contents of Mr Benn's speech.

The prime minister's official spokesman said Tony Blair "has always made clear we believe in fighting terrorism not just by military means but by political means as well".

Asked about using the phrase "war on terror," he said: "We all use our own phraseology."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said "war on terror" had "always been a flawed concept" and questioned Mr Benn's motivation.

"At best it is a superficial approach, at worst a failure to tackle the serious issues.

"Many will be cynical about Hilary Benn waiting until he is running for deputy leader of the Labour Party before making these comments.

"This apparent change of heart must also herald a substantive change of policy to one which tackles the root problems that give rise to international terrorism," Mr Moore added.

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