Britain urges Europe to stand firm against terrorism

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Britain warned Spain and other European governments yesterday that they would play into the hands of terrorists if they opted out of the fight against terrorism after the Madrid bombings.

Britain warned Spain and other European governments yesterday that they would play into the hands of terrorists if they opted out of the fight against terrorism after the Madrid bombings.

In a message aimed at Spain's new leaders, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said countries which softened their policies in response to terrorism would not protect themselves. Tony Blair will seek today to build bridges with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's prime minister-elect, who has accused Britain and America of going to war in Iraq on the basis of "lies", and threatened to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops.

Mr Blair is expected to meet Mr Zapatero before attending a memorial service in Madrid for the victims of the bombings.

Mr Blair flew to Madrid last night for a private farewell dinner with Jose Maria Aznar, the outgoing conservative prime minister, a close ally and strong supporter of the Iraq war, who suffered a surprise election defeat after the bombings.

Mr Straw said pulling out of Iraq or abandoning Afghanistan would not satisfy the "insatiable" appetite of al-Qa'ida, but would only whet it. "The simple fact is that global terrorists attack us all. Those who murdered the early-morning commuters in Madrid did not stop to ask their victims if they were in favour of military action in Iraq or against it; or whether they were Muslim Christian, Spanish or French."

He said that differences over Iraq could not be allowed to drive a wedge between Europe and America and called for greater co-operation among European Union countries. "We must stay together in Europe, and internationally, to combat this common threat."

* The death toll in the Madrid terrorist attacks fell from 202 to 190 yesterday after Spanish authorities discovered errors in identifying the mutilated bodies. They confirmed there was no evidence of a suicide bomber.

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