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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 March 2008, 22:46 GMT
Not talking to al-Qaeda 'silly'
Lord West
The Government has rejected the idea of talks
Security minister Lord West has said it would be "silly" to have no communication link whatsoever with terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

His comments back Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former chief of staff, who said that the UK should talk to al-Qaeda.

The Foreign Office has described the suggestion as "inconceivable".

However, Lord West said that any communication should be done on a "very careful, secret level" but he rejected the idea of formal talks.

Lord West said: "To say that there should be no link at all through any strange back source, back route into anywhere would be silly - but that's done on a very careful, secret level really to find out what they're up to.

'Secret channels'

"I think to actually get into dialogue with people who at the moment don't seem to have any aim other than causing mass casualties, no clear way ahead, I think would be wrong - and I don't believe we're doing that at the moment to the best of my knowledge."

Mr Powell, who initially raised the debate, was one of the key negotiators for the government in reaching a settlement in Northern Ireland during Mr Blair's time at Number 10.

BBC political correspondent James Hardy said Mr Powell now believes that deal would not have been possible without secret channels being opened to the IRA three decades earlier.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It is inconceivable that Her Majesty's government would ever seek to reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with a terrorist organisation like al-Qaeda."

In November last year, Lord West denied being forced to change his mind on extending terror detention limits. In an interview, he told the BBC that he had yet to be convinced of the need to extend the 28-day limit.

Just over an hour later, after a visit to Downing Street, the minister said he actually was convinced of the case.

UK dismisses al-Qaeda talks call
15 Mar 08 |  UK Politics
West denies terror limit U-turn
14 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

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