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Blair appeals to Arabs



LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has appeared on Osama bin Laden's favourite Arab satellite television station in an appeal to the Islamic world.

Blair recorded an interview with the widely watched Qatar-based television channel al Jazeera, which was later shown throughout the Arab world with the use of a voice over.

Bin Laden, the man accused by the U.S. of masterminding the hijacked plane attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, frequently appears in videos, or issues statements, on al Jezeera.

The latest pre-recorded bin Laden appearance this week showed him defiantly threatening the U.S. that it "will not dream of security before we live it in Palestine, and not before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed."

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But Blair, upping the stakes in the war of words, accused bin Laden of "missusing" the Palestinian issue and of threatening Arab states with instability.

Blair said Britain had long supported the idea of a Palestinian state if it emerged from peaceful negotiations and helped guarantee regional stability.

"Which is why I think it is so wrong when people like bin Laden or the Taliban regime misuse the Palestinian cause to justify the killing of thousands of people," he said.

Blair added that peace talks should resume in an effort of resolve the complaints of the Palestinians, but "the slaughter of innocent people" was not the right route.

He also addressed the repeated Arab complaints of a humanitarian crisis in Iraq after more than a decade of U.N. sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. He said President Saddam Hussein was "the author of the misfortunes of the Iraqi people."

"He could use as much money as he wanted under the regime of sanctions in place...for medicines and food. He chooses not to," Blair said.

Blair said more "dialogue" was needed between the Arab world and the West, and between Islam and between people of other faiths.

He warned the Muslim world that bin Laden posed a threat to their lifestyles with the dissident Saudi's aim of imposing fundamentalist Islamic regimes across the Middle East.

In a direct attempt to counter bin Laden's message, Blair said: "This is not about the West versus Islam.

"Decent Muslims, millions of them in European countries, have condemned these attacks of terrorism in New York and elsewhere in America with every bit as much force as any of the rest of us.

bin Laden
Bin Laden denounces the U.S. in a videotape broadcast by al Jazeera  

"Let us be clear, when we listen to the words of Osama bin Laden, if he has his way, he would replace regimes in the Arab world with (regimes) like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"I don't believe that anybody seriously wants to live under that kind of regime."

Al Jazeera's frequent showing of bin Laden's footage prompted the U.S. last week to raise concerns about the station's coverage during a meeting with the emir of Qatar in Washington.

But the station has defended its frequent showing of bin Laden's footage, saying he is a party to the conflict.

Blair's war cabinet, which consists of six cabinet ministers, began its first meeting on Tuesday.

The cabinet also includes Britain's Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce.






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