Iraq war is no excuse for July bombings, says Blair

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The Iraq war does not excuse the Islamic extremism that led to the London bombings in July, Tony Blair told MPs.

The Prime Minister rejected the embarrassing finding of senior Muslim advisers appointed by the Home Office, who reported two weeks ago that Britain's foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, was a "key contributory factor" in motivating criminal radical extremists.

Questioned yesterday about the report by the Commons Liaison Committee, Mr Blair said he had never denied that extremists were using the Iraq war to recruit followers and justify terrorist outrages: "What was a factor in their minds is not a judgment, in the end, that anybody is able to make. Of course these people will use these issues, but what is the conclusion we draw? That we end up having them determine our foreign policy?"

Mr Blair said there was "no justification" for the sense of grievance displayed by the July 7 suicide bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan in a video recorded before the attack, in which he claimed to be fighting on behalf of oppressed Muslims. Dismissing this as "rubbish" he said: "We have got to challenge this sense of grievance because there is no justified sense of grievance."

He said the effect of Britain's foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan was to allow millions of people the right to vote. He said: "Whether America is right or wrong or Britain is right or wrong about aspects of its foreign policy, it is not pursuing it because of the religion of the people involved.

"In the end, even if you eliminated Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Palestine and all the others [as issues], it would come down to the way of life we have here and the way of life they want to impose on other Muslim countries."

The Prime Minister predicted that Islamic terror would be a threat to Britain for "a very long time" because its roots were "very, very deep". The new phenomenon of global terrorism would not simply go away if Britain ignored it. "It is not going to go away until we uproot it," he said. "And the only way we uproot it is by challenging it at every single level - their methods, their ideas, their supposed sense of grievance, the extremist preaching they engage in, the works."

Insisting he was not "casual about civil liberties", Mr Blair said anti-terror laws needed to "send some pretty strong signals" to people who might want to come to Britain to cause trouble or conspire to commit terrorist acts. "I would like them to get the message that if you do that life is going to be difficult for you and you are likely to be turned back to your own country," he said.

On Iraq, Mr Blair conceded that many Iraqis felt "very conflicted" about the presence of foreign troops on their soil, and wanted to see a situation where they could run their own country. But he said it was "absurd" to suggest multinational troops were largely to blame for the deaths of innocent civilians since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003.

"The people that have died in Iraq since Saddam fell have died principally as a result of the insecurity and the terrorism coming about as a result of the activities of those who want to disrupt the democratic process," he said. "It is not American and British troops going out to kill innocent people. On the contrary, we are there with a United Nations mandate to protect innocent people. The only thing that requires the presence of the multinational force in Iraq is the presence of this terrorism. What is the conclusion that we reach from all this? That we back away, get out and leave the country at the mercy of warring factions?"