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Don't waver, Blair tells Britain

Tony Blair
Some Labour MPs want Blair to face parliament on airstrikes  

LONDON, England -- Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on the British people to show their "moral fibre" by holding firm in the fight against terrorism.

The war in Afghanistan would not be quick, easy or painless, UK government officials stressed on Sunday as they prepared the nation for the insertion of British ground forces in the U.S.-led campaign.

Aides said that in a speech to the Welsh assembly on Tuesday, Blair will say: "Whatever our faults, Britain is a very moral nation with a strong sense of right and wrong, and that moral fibre will defeat the fanaticism of the terrorists and their supporters."

His Downing Street office issued the statement as fellow ministers in Britain warned that the campaign against Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network could drag on for months -- directly contradicting Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf, who has talked of a "short" war.

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Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said that Blair had moved to restore confidence after admitting to his cabinet that "it was not going well" and it was taking "longer than expected" to "batter the Taliban into submission."

Speaking in Islamabad, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said civilian deaths in the current U.S. bombing campaign were unfortunate but he firmly opposed any let up in the attacks until the Taliban were driven from power.

"I personally think it would be wrong to go in and suspend the military action," Schroeder said of calls for a pause in bombing to allow delivery of humanitarian aid or to observe the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that starts in mid-November.

"I think if we were to suspend the military action at this point in time it would make finding a political solution even more difficult," he said.

Speaking at the same news conference Musharraf, slightly altering his previous calls to Washington for a quick end to the conflict, said: "The military campaign, as much as possible, should be short and targeted."

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On Saturday British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said he believed the campaign against al Qaida could last through the bitter Afghan winter.

British military commanders agreed Britain was in for "the long haul."

The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, was quoted on Saturday as saying the fight against international terrorism could take half a century.

He was speaking in Oman as 200 Royal Marines of 40 Commando remained on immediate standby for the expected ground offensive in Afghanistan.

British junior defence minister Lewis Moonie said on a British breakfast TV morning talk show that the public must accept the possibility of British casualties as the Marines joined the conflict.

"People have to be prepared for the fact that this is a difficult operation and that our troops will be called upon to put themselves in danger for us," Moonie said.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC the UK government was at pains to remind the public why the conflict was happening and what gains had been made so far.

"We have broken up the terrorist camps. People seem to forget about that. They are inoperable," he said. "One of the objectives we have set has happened."

But veteran British Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell said that Blair should justify the continued air-strikes to parliament.

He told PA News: "If the Prime Minister can find time to go to Cardiff and lecture the Welsh Assembly on Tuesday on moral fibre and holding British nerve, he can surely find the time to come to the House of Commons himself on Thursday to explain why continued bombing is a justifiable policy."


• UK Marines get war on terror role
October 26, 2001
• Blair: bin Laden trial 'unlikely'
October 25, 2001
• EU unites region against terror
October 20, 2001
• Europe's leaders discuss security
October 20, 2001
• Blair's battle in propaganda war
October 15, 2001

• British Government
• German government

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