Don't attempt to undermine new anti-terror laws, Blair tells judges

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In his most impassioned assault on the "warped" ideology of the terrorists, the Prime Minister called on Muslims to confront the extremists in British mosques.

He hit back at suggestions that the Government had allowed Britain become a soft touch for terrorist sympathisers. He told a Downing Street press conference: "We've been trying to do things, but they have been blocked." Asked who had been responsible for that, he said: "You can go back over the court cases."

The Prime Minister met opposition leaders in Downing Street to discuss moves to hasten the laws on to the statute book following the 7 July attacks and the failed bombings two weeks later.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats are giving their backing to new offences that outlaw inciting terrorism, preparing an attack and giving or receiving terror training. A series of other measures is also being considered. The most contentious is a call by senior police officers for the right to detain suspects for as long as three months, up from the current limit of 14 days.

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats expressed reservations about the move. But Mr Blair said: "I think it perfectly reasonable for us in circumstances of great difficulty to have a greater detention in order that there can be the interrogation of people who are suspected of doing this."

One possible compromise is to increase the detention period to 28 days.

The opposition parties believe the Government is becoming more sympathetic to the use of phone taps and other intercept evidence in court and demands for a single force to police Britain's borders.

Among other measures under consideration are a specific offence of attending a terrorist training camp, powers to deal with extreme publications and bookshops stocking them, and use of the internet to promote terrorist activity.

The option of recalling Parliament from its summer recess, should that prove necessary, is being kept open. Both Mr Blair and Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, who are both about to go on holiday, have made it clear they can return at short notice.

In an impassioned appeal for Britain to fight Islamic extremism at every level, the Prime Minister said: "I want to make one thing very clear - whatever excuse or justification these people use, I do not believe we should give one inch to them, not in this country and the way we live our lives here, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in our support for two states (Israel and Palestine), not in our support for the alliances we choose including with America - not one inch do we give to these people.

"I may offend people when I say this but I am going to say this nonetheless - September 11 for me was a wake-up call. Do you know what I think the problem is? A lot of the world woke up for a short time, and then turned over and went back to sleep again."

He responded to criticism that he is "in denial" about the link with Iraq after the London bombings, saying: "I read occasionally I am supposed to have said it's nothing to do with Iraq. I haven't said that. What I do say is this: of course people are going to use Iraq and Afghanistan to try and recruit people. I think most people understand that the roots of this go far deeper."

A poll yesterday in The Times suggested that 64 per cent of the public believe he has made Britain a target because of his alliance with America in the war on Iraq.

But Mr Blair refused to shift over the British presence in Iraq. He rejected a call by Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary, for a timetable for withdrawal to show Britain has no intention of occupying Iraq indefinitely . Mr Cook hit back last night, saying: "I think it's time the West came to terms with the fact that all we are doing in Iraq is making terrorism worse, not better. If you were to ask Osama Bin Laden what he wants ... his reply would be that he would like us to stay in Iraq and continue in the way we are doing because nothing better helps him recruit foot soldiers and more money for his cause."

Last night Labour activists were circulating a model resolution for the Labour conference calling for early withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

Mr Blair said: "It's time we stopped saying we abhor their methods but maybe we see something in their ideas or they have a sliver of a justification for it. Neither have they any justification for killing people in Israel.

"There is no justification for suicide bombing whether in Palestine Iraq London Egypt Turkey, or the USA. There is no justification for it period. We will start to beat this when we stand up and start to confront the ideology. Not just the methods but the ideas."

He added: "Let's take this issue of Iraq and expose the frankly the obscenity of these people saying it's concern for Iraq that drives them to terrorism. If it's concern for Iraq why are they driving a car bomb into the middle of a group of children and killing them? Why are they trying to kill people in Iraq whose only desire is to have democracy? Why are they killing people In Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia Afghanistan?

"They will always have a reason. I am not saying any of these things don't effect their warped reasoning and warped logic as to what they do or that they don't use these things to try and recruit people. But I do say we should not compromise with it. We should not even allow them the vestige of an excuse for what they do."