Blair and Zapatero clash on troops for Iraq

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tony Blair yesterday denounced as "hopelessly naive" the suggestion that pulling out of Iraq would remove Britain from the terrorists' sights.

Tony Blair yesterday denounced as "hopelessly naive" the suggestion that pulling out of Iraq would remove Britain from the terrorists' sights.

In his first public comments since Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister-elect, threatened to bring home the country's 1,300 troops in Iraq, Mr Blair, echoing comments by President George Bush, urged the world to "stand firm" against terrorism or be defeated by it.

But a defiant Mr Zapatero made clear he would not bow to President Bush's demand to stand by the American-led occupation of Iraq.

He said in a radio interview yesterday: "I will listen to Mr Bush, but my position is very clear and very firm. The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war."

Bulgaria, which has 480 troops serving with the Polish contingent in Iraq, said yesterday it would be unable to boost the number of its soldiers to fill the gap if the Spanish return home. Poland also has no plans to send extra troops.

Mr Blair argued at Prime Minister's Question Time that the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States came long before the invasion of Iraq.

"The fact is there is no way of appeasing these people," he said. "The fact is these people will continue. It is a war. It is a war on our way of life. It is a war on our democracy. It is a war on our freedom and that is why we must redouble our efforts and defeat it and the best way to do that is for the the international community to stand firm on it."

Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, said the Madrid bombings proved there was "no such thing as an opt-out from the war on terror".

He said: "These events reinforce some very harsh truths that Europe is not immune from attack by al-Qa'ida and that, as we know from the chilling statements that organisation has made, there are no concessions that will stop these attacks."

He added: "The Polish Prime Minister has rightly warned that revising our positions on Iraq after terrorist attacks would be to admit the terrorists are stronger and that they are right."

Agreeing, Mr Blair told MPs: "The idea that if we were to give in over the issue of Iraq that that would be an end of the matter so far as they [the terrorists] are concerned is completely and hopelessly naive."

Comments