Downing Street to make broadcast on Arab TV

War on terrorism: Media
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Indy Politics

Tony Blair will speak directly to the Arab world to tell Muslims that the bombing of Afghanistan does not represent a war against Islam.

The Prime Minister's message will be shown on the Qatari satellite television station Al-Jazeera, which broadcast a video of Osama bin Laden denouncing the US on Sunday.

Mr Blair will tell Muslims that the al-Qa'ida leader's vision for the Arab world is fundamentalist and uncompromising. He will warn that his network is as threatening to moderate Arab states as it is to the West.

"If [Mr bin Laden] has his way, the regimes he would replace regimes in the Arab world with would be like the Taliban regime in Afghanistan," Mr Blair will say. "I don't believe that anybody seriously wants to live under that kind of regime."

The Prime Minister invited Al-Jazeera staff to Downing Street yesterday to record his message, which was expected to be broadcast across the Middle East today.

He will reassure Muslims that the strikes on Afghanistan are not directed against the Afghan people but at terrorist groups. "This is not about the West versus Islam. Decent Muslims, millions of them in European countries, have condemned these acts of terrorism in New York and elsewhere in America with every bit as much force as any of the rest of us."

Mr Blair will also say that the attacks on the World Trade Centre killed scores of Muslims and contradicted the teachings of Islam.

The Al-Jazeera station has a huge audience across the Arab world. Its profile has been boosted in recent weeks because of its access to Mr bin Laden and members of his network. Soon after the strikes began, the station broadcast a lengthy address by Mr bin Laden, who was wearing military fatigues. He called on Muslims to join an anti-American jihad, and claimed that the West was the aggressor and President George Bush was "an infidel".

"I swear by God the Great that America and those who live there will never have security and safety," he said. "Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion."