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Blair: 'Never forget September 11'

Blair said:
Blair said: "We are a principled nation and this is a principled conflict."  

CARDIFF, Wales -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has appealed to the public to remember the images of September 11 amid growing criticism of the Afghanistan bombing campaign.

"Thousands of people were killed in cold blood in the worst terrorist attacks the world has ever seen," Blair said in a keynote speech on Tuesday.

The address was designed to correct a perceived "wobble" in the public and media's support for the bombing campaign and Blair stressed it was important "we never forget why we are doing it".

He told his audience: "Never forget how we felt watching the planes fly into the twin towers. Never forget those answering machine messages.

"Never forget how we felt imagining how mothers told children they were about to die.

"Never forget the guts of the firefighters and police in New York who died trying to save others.

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The U.S.-led air war draws scepticism in Britain. CNN's Margaret Lowrie reports (October 29)

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"Never forget the menace of bin Laden in his propaganda video." Blair insisted: "We are a principled nation and this is a principled conflict.

"September 11 is no less appalling today than it was then, on September 11. Our determination is no less resolute than it was on the day military action began. We have a job to do and it is being done and it will be seen through to the end."

While Blair said those who raised doubts in a democracy were not appeasers or faint-hearts, and sought to reassure them that the international war against terrorism was just and had to be fought, he warned this was not a conventional conflict and said the exact nature of any future ground operations may have to remain secret.

Speaking to the Welsh National Assembly in Cardiff, Blair said: "I said a few days ago that now would be the testing time.

"People want results, they want them as fast as possible.

"They realise the formidable challenges posed by any action in Afghanistan. They worry about civilian casualties. They are anxious about the refugee crisis as winter approaches. They wonder what comes after the conflict.

"All these concerns deserve to be answered. No-one who raises doubts is an appeaser or a faint-heart.

"We are a democracy, strong enough to have doubts raised even at a time of war and wise enough to be able to respond to them."

Blair was speaking as public support for Anglo-American military action against Afghanistan has fallen, according to a national newspaper opinion poll.

The Guardian/ICM poll found support down by 12 points in the past fortnight, from 74 percent to 62 percent.

Blair also said there was now "a flood" of evidence proving Osama bin Laden was guilty of the September 11 atrocities.

He said: "Those responsible were the al Qaida network reared by Osama bin Laden. That is a fact barely disputed by anyone any more.

"Incidentally, the intelligence evidence, a flow when I first drew attention to it on October 3, is now a flood, confirming guilt."

He said there was now "a group of people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything the civilised world stands for who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill again unless stopped".

He added: "They have one hope: that we are somehow decadent, that we lack the moral fibre or will or courage to take them on; that we might begin but we won't finish; that we will start, then falter; that when the first setbacks occur, we will lose our nerve.

"They are wrong. We won't falter.

"We will not stop until our mission is complete. We will not flinch from doing what is necessary to complete it.

"We will not fail and we will do it all because we believe in our values of justice, tolerance and respect for all regardless of race, religion or creed just as passionately as they believe in a fanatical hatred of Jews, Christians and any Muslims who don't share their perverse view of Islam."

Blair repeated the coalition aims and went on: "The means we use will be air power, ground operations as and when necessary, support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban regime elements and building up a strong political and diplomatic coalition against the present Taliban regime inside and outside Afghanistan."

Earlier on Tuesday, Downing Street said that the Government was confident it retained the support of MPs and the public, despite the emergence of critical voices over recent days.

Blair's official spokesman said: "We believe that the House (of Commons) is behind what the Government is doing, the Government is united, the coalition is strong, the cause is just, the strategy is right and we will follow it through."

The statement came in the wake of The Guardian poll, which found strong backing for the use of British troops on the ground in Afghanistan, with 57 percent of the public approving of their use, and only 29 percent disapproving.

However, the poll found that 54 percent of those questioned would back a pause in the bombing campaign to allow aid convoys to reach the needy in Afghanistan. Only 29 percent said they would disagree with a pause.

For the poll, ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults from across the country by telephone, between October 26 and 28.


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• British Government

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