Blair calls for 'humanitarian coalition' as refugee crisis looms

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Tony Blair today called for a "humanitarian coalition" to cope with the looming refugee crisis in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister said he agreed with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and the head of the UN High Commission for Refugees Ruud Lubbers to put together a "concerted aid programme" in the region.

"Just as we have built a political and military coalition following the events in America, now we have also to build a humanitarian coalition to deal with humanitarian crisis in that region," he told reporters in Downing Street.

Mr Blair said that he would be having further discussions with EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten and Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi about measures to cope with the refugee influx.

"I will be stressing throughout the importance of a massive assistance programme going hand in hand with diplomatic and military options," he said.

The Prime Minister also urged people to go about their daily lives as normal and not allow them to be disrupted by concerns about the September 11 terrorist attacks in America.

"These are immensely difficult times. We are engaged in a fight against terrorism on all fronts," he said.

"We will be vigilant but we must not let these events shake our confidence in ourselves, in our country and in our way of life."

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