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Blair: bin Laden trial 'unlikely'

Blair said he did not think bin Laden would appear before a court
Blair said he did not think bin Laden would appear before a court  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes killing Osama bin Laden in a bombing raid or in a special forces assault on his hideout is the most likely outcome of the war in Afghanistan.

Blair's comments -- a day after he vowed to "get" bin Laden -- came as U.S. jets continued to pound Taliban lines and one of the U.S. military's top commanders admitted the group was proving to be a formidable foe.

In an interview with the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, Blair made it clear he was not advocating a policy of assassination.

But he said he did not expect to see bin Laden stand trial before an international court and described putting him on trial as "bit of an academic question."

CNN's Matthew Chance reports on the Northern Alliance's military preparedness (October 23)

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Gen Tommy Franks, commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, on the Afghan campaign (October 24)

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Asked if it is better for bin Laden to be dead or captured, Blair said: "I think it is better that he be stopped."

He added: "He is well protected and well armed. And I have always thought it unlikely that he will be turning up in court one day. But we will wait and see."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State General Colin Powell, who is holding talks with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Washington, said he would like to see the US military objectives accomplished "in the next few days," but acknowledged it was likely to take longer.

Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, the U.S. Navy's representative on the joint chiefs of staff, last night called the Afghan soldiers "tough warriors."

Speaking at a press briefing, he acknowledged America was entering a "long, long campaign" but said it was "inevitable" that the regime would fall.

In a further development, the charity set up in the name of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has called for a halt in the bombing campaign.

Andrew Purkis, chief executive of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, warned that the use of cluster bombs recently deployed against Taliban forces, represented a serious long-term threat to civilians, similar to that posed by landmines.

Each cluster bomb contains 200 bomblets each weighing 1.5 kilogrammes that are designed to spray out shrapnel and set fire to any combustible material nearby.

Princess Diana was keen to raise awareness of the dangers posed by landmines and unexploded munitions, travelling to Bosnia and Angola to highlight the problem.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, Purkis said: "There must be an urgent rethink of this action.

"There is evidence from Kosovo and the Gulf War that the components of these weapons are prone to missing their targets and fail in significant numbers to explode.

"They then pose a serious long-term threat to civilians and ground forces alike."

The letter, which is also signed by Richard Lloyd, the director of Landmine Action, adds: "It seems lessons have not been learnt from past conflicts.

"Collateral damage is not time limited; the presence of highly sensitive unexploded cluster munitions will increase the number of casualties caused by the severe landmine problem in Afghanistan for years to come, and will deny people facing starvation the use of their land."


• Blair vows to 'get' bin Laden
October 24, 2001
• EU unites region against terror
October 20, 2001
• Europe's leaders discuss security
October 20, 2001

• British government
• Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund

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