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English Prime Minister Tony Blair Address House of Commons

Aired November 14, 2001 - 10:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I hate to do this to you. We don't have an awful lot of time right now. But just briefly -- all right, I'm sorry, you know what, we're going to have to cut it short. Mansoor Ijaz, I apologize. We're going to go to Tony Blair, House of Commons, London.


TONY BLAIR, PRIME MINISTER OF ENGLAND: One after another, Taliban positions have folded -- Taloqan, Baghlan, Bamiyan. The major city in the west -- Herat -- fell without a fight to Ismail Khan.

And now we see that the strategy we have pursued is being equally successful in the Pashtun south of the country. Kabul fell without serious resistance on Monday night. Key cities in the Pashtun south have followed Kabul swiftly, including Jalalabad.

It is clear that support for the Taliban is evaporating. Though there may be pockets of resistance, the idea that this has been some kind of tactical retreat is just the latest Taliban lie. They are in total collapse.

There are reports today that senior Taliban figures in Gardez, including Borders Minister Haqqani and Intelligence Chief Amadullah have surrendered. Kandahar airport is reported to have been taken by anti-Taliban forces.

I have to say that regrettable incidents have happened as the liberated people have turned on their oppressors, and they should not happen. And I appeal to the Northern Alliance and all other forces in Afghanistan to be restrained, to avoid acts of revenge and to engage with the United Nations.

But I believe that the whole House and country should welcome the progress that has been made.

Though conflict is never easy or pleasant, to see women and children smiling after years under one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world is finally to understand the true meaning of the word liberation.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding leadership that President Bush has given and give heartfelt thanks to the British forces involved now and in the future. There is no greater comfort to the British people than to know that we can call on some of the best armed forces in the world. Their work and their contribution to Britain's strength and international standing in this world is immense.

I would also pay tribute to European solidarity, to the countries of the European Union, that has stood firm throughout this crisis, and also to our other coalition partners.

However, Mr. Speaker, there remain huge challenges. The military job is not yet done. Osama bin Laden is still at large; so are his close associates. The diplomatic and political situation remains difficult. The threat of a humanitarian crisis remains.

I should tell the House that the United Kingdom will continue to play a full role in the military, the diplomatic and humanitarian aspects of this campaign, the objectives of which remain are set out in the document published in the House library on the 16th of October.

Our forces so far have been involved in the air strikes using Tomahawk missiles and through providing support to U.S. bombers.

On the ground, our forces have been involved in liasing and working with the Northern Alliance, advising them and helping them to coordinate action.

I can confirm to the House that several thousand of our troops are being put on 48-hour notice to move in case they are required in the RAF. These include elements from three Commander and 16 air assault brigades, including second battalion, the parachute regiment and 45 Commander Royal Marines and a range of supporting assets, including RAF air transport, support helicopters, engineers, logistics teams and explosive ordinates experts.

I cannot, for obvious reasons, give the House full details on how these troops may be used. Consultations with the United States and our other coalition partners continue.

The main purpose of these troops will be in the context of multinational efforts to make safe the humanitarian supply routes now opening up as a result of military progress on the ground.

Others may be focused on securing airfields and clearing unexploded ordinates and ensuring the safe return of the U.N. and NGOs through Afghanistan, permitting the construction of the broad-based government that is so badly needed.

The troops will only remain in place for a strictly limited period of time, while an international force to work alongside Afghan military commanders is prepared.

We cannot, of course, rule out some of our troops being used in offensive front-line operations. Commander Royal Marines remain at the high state of readiness for contingency operations.

On the humanitarian front, I should say that an average of over 2,000 tons of food a day has been dispatched since the 4th of November. That's four times the rate at the start of October when it was some 500 tons a day. The World Food Program is optimistic about reaching its targets. It has dispatched over 50,000 metric tons of food to Afghanistan since the beginning of October, sufficient for 5 million people for one month.

We look forward, however, to the opening of a corridor from the liberated areas to the borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In particular, the Friendship Bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan will be made safe the passage of these supplies.

The U.N. and the ICRC should now be able to improve delivery of food, health care and other assistance to 2 million vulnerable people in the northern region of Afghanistan. Plans are now being made for the international staff of the U.N., Red Cross and NGOs to return to Afghanistan.

In addition, we will be able to accelerate deliveries to areas in central Afghanistan, which will become harder to access as winter sets in, so that sufficient stockpiles can be built up closer to the people who need them. This will further reduce the suffering of the Afghan people and, I hope, show the rest of Afghanistan that life for the entire nation will be better once the Taliban regime has gone.

The advance of the anti-Taliban forces has been assisted by defections from disillusioned supporters of the Taliban. It is time for the rest of the Afghanistan, particularly the ethnic groups in the south, to join the uprising against the Taliban and to throw off their oppressive rule. The sooner they act, the greater benefit for all the people in Afghanistan.

The structure of post-Taliban Afghanistan will be for the Afghan people to determine, but we will provide strong diplomatic and economic support for the aspirations of Afghan parties committed to an inclusive democratic political structure, committed to the welfare of all Afghan men, women and children and providing substantial local autonomy.

I spoke to the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday who outlined to me the process that will now be followed. The first step will be an early U.N. convened meeting of representatives of the various Afghan anti-Taliban groups, including Pashtuns, under the U.N. Special Representative Mr. Brahimi. This would lead to a transitional administration. To support this process under Mr. Brahimi, the U.N. Security Council will be, I believe, adopting a resolution to underpin the principles upon which Mr. Brahimi is working.

The immediate next step is for the U.N. to establish a presence in Kabul. I'm delighted that Mr. Vendrell, the U.N. deputy special representative for Afghanistan, and Mike Sackett, who's the humanitarian coordinator, plan to travel there on Friday. And we plan to have a UK diplomatic presence in Kabul by the weekend. I've also spoken today to President Bush and to Chancellor Schroeder, and I would say that the coalition is as strong today as it has ever been.

Mr. Speaker, in respect to -- of the very basis of this action, we must never forget why we are engaged in it. It is because, on the 11th of September, Al Qaeda perpetrated the worst terrorist outrage in history. It is to bring them to justice and to eliminate them as a threat to world affairs, that we have been and are acting as we are.

Today, I have put in the library of the House an updated version of the evidence document first published on October 4. The new document will be translated into Arabic, Urdu and other languages.

The intelligence material now leaves no doubt whatever of the guilt of Osama bin Laden and his associates. On October the 4th, we knew that three of the hijackers were linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Now we know that the majority were. Indeed, the utterances from the Al Qaeda network and from bin Laden's own mouth leaves no doubt.

Far from hiding their guilt, they gloat about it.

On October the 9th, one of his spokesman praised the September 11 atrocities as, I quote, "A good deed," which transferred the battle into the U.S. heartland. And he warned, and I quote, "The storm of plane attacks will not abate."

Bin Laden himself said, on October the 20th, in an unbroadcast videotape that, and I quote, "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, let history be a witness that we are terrorists."

Mr. Speaker, they are terrorists, and history will judge them as such.

Before the history books are written, however, we will continue to hunt them down, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes to bring them to the justice they deserve

They are guilty, and they will face justice. And today, thankfully, there are far fewer places to hide and far fewer people who wish to protect them.

As we have made clear from the outset, the campaign against terrorism is much more than a military campaign: It is diplomatic, humanitarian, economic, legal. It has meant changing our laws to protect ourselves at home, working with others to protect ourselves abroad.

Above all, at this moment, I say to the people of Afghanistan: As we hunt down those terrorists that committed murder and as we hunt them down hiding in your country, they -- and not you -- are our enemy. This time, we will not walk away. Your future is in your hands, but our hands are there in friendship to help you shape that future.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered grievously from a brutal regime, from conflict, from famine, from drought. We want to see a country with a government representing all the people of Afghanistan, occupying a proud place in the community of nations, growing economically, enriching its people, liberating their potential. A country, frankly, that has suffered so much, deserves no less than a fresh start.

And let us be clear, the way the world embraces and supports the new Afghanistan will be the clearest possible indication that the dreadful events of the 11th of September have resulted in a triumph for the international community acting together as a force for good and the defeat of the evil that is international terrorism. A safer world, I think we all know now, is built ultimately out of secure countries, representing all their people, living in peace with their neighbors.

That is how terrorism will eventually be defeated. And that, step by step, must be the new international order that emerges from the worst terrorist outrage in our history. Whatever the challenges and whatever the setbacks along the way, I believe that is a vision and that is a world that is worth fighting for.



IAN DUNCAN SMITH, HOUSE OF COMMONS: We are grateful on this side of the House for Prime Minister's...


O'BRIEN: Great Britain. House of Commons. A rousing speech. Not a lot of news in the speech itself, except more of the kind of statements you would expect as a close ally of the United States in the war against terror. Concurrent with his speech on the Number 10 Downing Street web site, the document which he referred to, the dossier, which I've been reading as I've been listening reads, an awful lot like an indictment, although it does not purport to be anything that would be prosecutable. But that's sort of an irrelevant point given the nature of this engagement.

Let's bring in our National Security Reporter, David Ensor. David, I I assume you've had a chance to look at that document. It's got a fair amount of specific statements about al Qaeda, about Osama bin Laden. And its links to the Taliban. And also some fairly specific quotations from the various videotapes. What struck you?

DAVID ENSOR, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, that bin Laden has never explicitly taken credit for the September 11th bombings. But, he indirectly suggests that people close to him may have been responsible.

You have the quote, for example, from the interview with Hamad Mir of the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn. Right here: "We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We're only defending ourselves. This is defensive Jihad, holy war. Or you have the quote that Prime Minister Blair just used from the October 20th interview. He says, "If avenging the deaths of our people is terrorism, then we are terrorists." It comes as close as you're going to get, probably, from someone like bin Laden to admission of involvement in the attacks. So that, I think is -- is, is striking. I would like to just point out a couple of things that Mr. Blair told us that I, at least, did not know. He -- he asserted that Jalalabad may have fallen already. He suggested that the intelligence chief of the Taliban may have surrendered. And he said that Kandahar airport had reportently -- reportedly been taken.

Now we did hear reports last night that Kandahar airport was under attack by forces loyal to Hamad Karzai, but we did not have confirmation from U.S. officials that that had, in fact, occurred. If it did, it would be a very useful staging post for U.S. and other forces -- for Northern Alliance forces, perhaps -- flown in by others -- to, to make a move in the south. Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, excuse me for missing those nuggets, David. I probably was distracted. That was very important points which you bring out, and I also think it's worth pointing out that this document, which indicates the -- the case against Osama bin Laden, if you will, comes from Tony Blair and not directly from the administration in Washington. This is, obviously, a strategic effort, for some reason. If you could shed some light as to why Tony Blair is revealing the evidence as opposed to somebody in the Bush administration?

ENSOR: Well, the Bush administration's view has been, as we in the media know as well as anyone, it -- it is not right to give a platform to bin Laden and other avowed terrorist. He shouldn't -- his entire speeches and videotapes shouldn't really go on the air as is. But the rest of the world has seen them some time ago. For example, this Mir interview -- Hamed Mir interview -- was, was all over the web on Sunday, November 11th. I have a transcript of -- transcript of it here. So there is a kind of delayed reaction to the information out of those interviews coming through in the United States, where these things are not being put on in full form.

O'BRIEN: Interesting also that he pointed out, it's being translated into Arabic and Urdu and Pashtun -- all significant languages, obviously, as the propaganda effort continues.

ENSOR: Well, that's right.

O'BRIEN: CNN's David Ensor, National Security Correspondent for us. Watching the Tony Blair speech as well as the document released out of Number 10 Downing Street today. And as further information from that becomes available to us, we'll pass it along to you.




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