UK prepared to attack terrorist bases

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The Independent Online
GEORGE ROBERTSON, the Secretary of State for Defence, warned yesterday that the Government was prepared to order US-style missile strikes on terrorist targets if British embassies were attacked.

In the most hawkish comments yet made by a minister, Mr Robertson said terrorists would be shown that there was "a price to be paid" for any assaults on UK installations.

But Tony Benn, the Labour MP for Chesterfield, said Mr Robertson's remarks showed that the British Government's uncritical support of US strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan had placed Britons abroad in danger and proved the urgent need to recall Parliament.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, said he was "astonished" by Mr Robertson's statement, adding: "I believe the Prime Minister has been irresponsible in endorsing [President Bill] Clinton and I believe that George Robertson has also been irresponsible. He has rendered vulnerable British embassies and the softer targets of British council officers."

Mr Robertson said Britain had evidence that the Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden, was behind the bombings of US embassies in East Africa and was attempting to acquire chemical weapons.

He refused to rule out missile attacks by the Royal Navy or RAF if any British targets were hit by a terror campaign believed to involve Mr bin Laden. "We have given the same indications and the same warnings to international terrorists who would threaten our embassies that the consequences would be dire on them if they did it," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend. "We are all targets if they believe they can get away with it with impunity."

Mr Robertson said his US counterpart, William Cohen, had compelling evidence that the El Shifa pharmaceutical factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum was producing chemical and biological weapons.

His remarks further widen the gap between Britain and its European allies on the US air strikes. With the exception of Tony Blair, European leaders have reacted coolly to the American cruise missile bombings of alleged terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan.

Sudan renewed its demand yesterday for a United Nations team to investigate the factory attacked by the US, which it insists produced medical drugs.

Call for UN probe, page 10

Paul Spike,

Review, page 4

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