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Blair: Two phases of campaign

Blair rallies British troops in Oman
Blair rallies British troops in Oman  

AL SHA'AFA, Oman -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair says any country found to be fomenting terror could be targeted in the U.S.-British campaign.

After meeting Oman's Sultan Qaboos during a three-day visit to the Middle East, Blair told a news conference: "There are two phases to the action.

"The first phase is focused on Afghanistan in order to close down the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. That phase is the military action we are undertaking."

The United States and Britain blame the Saudi-born militant for the suicide hijack attacks on September 11 in New York and Washington that killed more than 6,000 people.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in Oman visiting troops on exercise (October 10)

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Blair went on: "There will then be a second phase where we can consider, deliberate as to what action we can take to close down international terrorism in all its different forms."

His Oman visit is part of a three-day diplomatic tour intended to shore up Arab support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

Blair said the allies would not rest until terrorism was defeated -- wherever it lies -- but he assured coalition members there would be no knee-jerk strike on terrorism.

"How it is financed, how it acquires its weapons, how it moves across frontiers -- that is something we will deliberate and consider and discuss before we act," he told Reuters.

"Before we take any action, we will deliberate and discuss with other allies."

He was speaking to reporters in Oman during a visit to British troops at a desert base where they are engaged in exercises.

The Al Sha'afa base is the command centre of Operation Swift Sword II, involving more than 20,000 British servicemen and women in the biggest deployment since the Gulf War.

The forces are not involved at present in Operation Enduring Freedom against Afghanistan, whose ruling Taliban the U.S. and Britain accuse of harbouring bin Laden, but they could be called on to take part in future.

He told them: "The experience you have gained here will stand us in excellent stead for any of the trials we face in the future.

"For all of you, you never know when you are going to be called upon to fight, to risk your lives.

"Sometimes it's worth remembering why it is we need our forces and ask you to put your lives at risk in this way.

"Of course it's because we need to be able to defend our country and many times in our history we have had to be able to do that.

"But a country now cannot be defined simply by its borders. We also defend certain values -- our freedom, our ability to respect people of different faiths, our ability to fight for a sense of justice."

He added: "When we are prepared to fight what is at stake is whether we try to resolve issues in the world by talking to people, by negotiating, by reaching a common understanding or whether we let the extremists, the terrorists, the fanatics determine our fate.

"You are our front line in that battle."


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