Blair: Britain 'must never be afraid' to fight terrorists

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Tony Blair warned yesterday that the Spanish bombings would strengthen rather than weaken his resolve to put Britain "at the front" of the global war against international terrorism.

Tony Blair warned yesterday that the Spanish bombings would strengthen rather than weaken his resolve to put Britain "at the front" of the global war against international terrorism.

The Prime Minister urged public vigilance against the threat of an attack on the UK but insisted that the country "must never be afraid" to lead efforts to combat the terrorists and "fight back" alongside allies such as Spain.

Arriving amid heavy security at the Labour Party's spring conference in Manchester, Mr Blair, his voice cracking, said "this new war" on global terrorism was as serious a challenge to his generation as Nazism had been to his father's generation.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said the Madrid atrocities brought the problem closer to the United Kingdom and proved that the "tentacles of terrorism" were now spread across the globe.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, vowed that he would "do what is necessary" to fund the protection of Britain's borders and security.

Mr Blair made his most heartfelt remarks to date on the bombings as he toured a school in Manchester, saying they represented an attack on "the very principles of freedom and democracy" and pointing out that it was no coincidence that it came just a few days before the Spanish general election.

"In Spain tonight, millions of people will take to the streets and we will be with them in spirit and solidarity. This is a struggle which doesn't concern Spain alone but all of the free world," he said. "Britain has been its ally in that fight and we must never be at the back of it. We must never be afraid to be at the front of this new war.

"Each generation has its own wars to fight. My father's generation grew up fighting the Nazis and that is over. My generation grew up in the Cold War and now that is over. This is a new war, not a conventional war, which is being fought by dangerous fanatics. They are terrorists prepared to kill innocent people without any mercy."

Commenting on the threat to Britain, Mr Blair said: "We have got to be totally vigilant in the face of the threat because all major countries around the world face the same threat. We have to fight back and defend our way of life."

Mr Blunkett said that the Madrid train bombings proved that the "tentacles of terrorism" were reaching out to every corner of the world. He told delegates the Spanish government was still convinced the Basque separatist terror group Eta was responsible for the blasts.

But Mr Blunkett said that whoever was responsible, the new form of terror forced civilised societies to confront the fact that, for terror fanatics, the norms of prosecution and punishment did not apply.He said countries needed to protect themselves while ensuring democratic rights and values were upheld.

Mr Blunkett said the new kind of terrorism was "indiscriminate" and did not form part of a pattern where there was hope to "sit down and work out a solution".

He said the terrorists' objective was to "destroy our pluralism, to undermine our religious tolerance".

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