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Blair: 'We have an obligation'

Blair called the attacks "a tragedy of epoch-making proportions"  

LONDON, England -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament that Britain must help bring to justice perpetrators of the "hideous and foul" attacks on America.

"By their acts these terrorists and those behind them have made themselves the enemies of the entire civilised world," Blair told a packed emergency session of the House of Commons.

He said the UK had "not just an interest but an obligation to bring those responsible to account," adding that the deaths of "at least 100 British citizens, maybe many more" should be treated as if they had occurred in Britain itself.

The special session of parliament -- called to debate Britain's response to Tuesday's suicide attacks -- came on a day of mourning in America and Europe.

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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair vows to combat terrorism worldwide (September 14)

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Parliament joined Europe in a three-minute silence at 11 a.m. following Blair's address and preliminary debate.

"We are talking here about a tragedy of epoch-making proportions," the prime minister said, warning states harbouring terrorists "either to cease their protection of our enemies or be treated as an enemy themselves."

Blair also repeated his promise to back America: "We the British are a people that stand by our friends in time of need, trial and tragedy, and we do so without hesitation now."

Saying that no-one a week ago would have imagined the suicide hijackings that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a section of the Pentagon in Washington, Blair warned that terrorists could go further and use chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Blair praised U.S. President George W. Bush for proceeding with care.

"Rightly ... they did not lash out, they did not strike first and think afterwards. Their very deliberation is a measure of the seriousness of their intent," he said.

"They, together with allies, will want to identify, with care, those responsible. This is a judgment that must and will be based on hard evidence.

"Once that judgment is made, the appropriate action can be taken. It will be determined, it will take time, it will continue over time until this menace is properly dealt with and its machinery of terror destroyed."

Blair also took pains to stress that if so-called Islamic fundamentalists were behind the attacks, "we know they do not speak or act for the vast majority of decent, law-abiding Muslims throughout the world."

Newly-elected Conservative opposition leader Iain Duncan Smith immediately offered the government his party's backing, saying Blair had "our full support for his immediate pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with our strongest friends and allies in the U.S."

He added: "Together we must make sure that the perpetrators are hunted down and brought to justice."

Duncan Smith said that as many as one in 10 of those who died might turn out to be British, "making this the worst terror attack ever against our own country."

Friday's debate was not without dissenters, though.

Labour backbencher Dennis Skinner brought cries of "shame" from fellow MPs when he said there was "a world of difference" between standing shoulder to shoulder with the American people and "clinging to the coat tails of an American president ... whose first act when those firefighters were standing 10 feet tall among the rubble of the World Trade Center was to scurry off to his bunker."

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