Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Tony Blair Holds News Conference on London Terror Attacks
Aired August 5, 2005 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, August 5.
This hour, questions about al Qaeda, the London bombings and the Iraq war come together. British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces the British press. We'll bring that to you live.
Also, the president's poll numbers plummet over his handling of the war in Iraq.
And faces of the fallen -- we'll tell you about three of the Marines lost in Iraq this week.
ANNOUNCER: From the Time Warner Center in New York, this is DAYBREAK with Carol Costello and Chad Myers.
COSTELLO: And good morning to you.
We'll have more from London in just a minute.
Also ahead, new questions about troop armor and insurgent tactics in Iraq.
And should high school basketball stars be allowed to play with the big boys in the NBA?
But first, now in the news, Vice President Dick Cheney is meeting with the new ruler of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The delegation to the Saudi royal court includes former President George Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The shuttle Discovery has been cleared for reentry. NASA says a thermal blanket problem will not require a fourth space walk, so the shuttle is good to go. The astronauts are packing up ahead of tomorrow's planned separation from the International Space Station.
Evacuations underway in western India ahead of more possible flooding. More than 1,000 people were killed in the region last month by massive flooding and landslides cause by monsoons. New rains have forced people to prepare for even more flooding.
Oh -- Chad, it's awful there.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, the sad part about all of this is that this happens every year, but this year we finally have pictures. So it's getting some attention, you know? That's -- it's always, if you've got the video, you get the attention kind of thing.
COSTELLO: We begin this morning with threats of more terror activity in London.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now speaking at Ten Downing Street. We're going to let you listen to these remarks now.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... and find it is -- it's got the necessary substance for you.
Since the 7th of July, the response of the British people has been unified and dignified and remarkable. Of course, there is anxiety and worry, but the country knows the purpose of terrorism is to intimidate and it's not inclined to be intimidated. Of course, too, there have been isolated and unacceptable acts of racial or religious hatred, but they have been isolated.
By and large, Britain knows it is a tolerant and good-natured nation. It's rather proud of it and has responded to this terrorism with tolerance and good-natured in a way that's won the admiration of people and nations the world over.
However, I am acutely aware that alongside these feelings is also a determination that this very tolerance and good-nature should not be abused by a small but fanatical minority and an anger that it has been.
Time and again over the past few weeks, I've been asked to deal firmly with those prepared to engage in such extremism, and most particularly those who incite it or proselytize for it.
The Muslim community, I should emphasize, have been and are our partners in this endeavor. Much of the insistence on strong action to weed out extremism is coming most vigorously from Muslims themselves, deeply concerned lest the activities of the fanatical fringe contaminate the good reputation of the mainstream Muslim community in this country.
The action I am talking about has, in the past, been controversial. Each tightening of the law has met fierce opposition. Regularly, we have a defeat in parliament or in the courts. The anti- terrorism legislation, of course, passed in 2002 after September the 11th, was declared partially invalid. The successor legislation hotly contested.
But for obvious reasons, the mood now is different. People do not talk of scaremongering. And to be fair, the conservative leadership has responded with a genuine desire to work together for the good of the country, as have the liberal Democrats.
Over the past two weeks, there have been intensive meetings and discussions across government to set a comprehensive framework for action in dealing with the terrorist threat in Britain. And today I want to give our preliminary assessment of the measures we need urgently to examine.
In the meantime, insofar as administrative measures not requiring legislation can be taken, we will act with immediate effect.
In looking both at the law and administrative measures, we have surveyed extensively practice in other countries, including, in particular, other European countries. And to assist this process there will be a series of consultation papers over the coming weeks, starting with a research paper that will detail experience in other countries. There will also be a cross government unit staffed by senior hand-picked officials to drive this forward under the guidance of Bill Jeffrey, the intelligence and security coordinator, and the cabinet committee on counter-terrorism, which I chair.
The home secretary, with whom I've been talking closely in the past week, will have the cabinet responsibility for coordinating this.
Here are the measures either being taken now immediately or under urgent examination.
And let me pause here and say also to you that we will give you copies of this statement as you leave. So I'm aware taking it down shorthand is possibly a bit difficult, those of you who still have those skills.
First, the home secretary today publishes new grounds for deportation and exclusion. Deportation is a decision taken by the home secretary under statute. The new grounds will include fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs or justifying or validating such violence. These grounds will be subject to a short consultation period, which will finish this month.
Even under existing grounds, however, we are today signaling a new approach to deportation orders. Let no one be in any doubt the rules of the game are changing.
These issues will, of course, be tested in the courts. Up to now, the concern has been that orders for deportation will be struck down as contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court in the Chalals case in 1996. And, indeed, we have had such cases struck down.
However, the circumstances of our national security have now self-evidently changed and we believe we can get the necessary assurances from the countries to which we will return the deportees against their being subject to torture or ill treatment, contrary to Article 3.
We have now concluded a memorandum of understanding with Jordan and we are close to getting necessary assurances from other relevant countries. For example, just yesterday I had very constructive conversations with the leaders of Algeria and Lebanon. There are around 10 such countries with whom we are seeking such assurances.
France and Spain, to name just two other European countries, do deport by administrative decision. The effect is often immediate and in some cases the appeal is non-suspensive. In other words, it takes place outside of their country. The assurances given by the receiving nation are adequate for their courts and these countries are also, of course, subject to the European Convention on Human Rights and apply it directly in their own law.
So it is important to test this anew now in view of the changed conditions in Britain. Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary, amending the Human Rights Act in respect to the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In any event, we will consult on legislating specifically for a non-suspensive appeal process in respect to deportations.
One other point on deportations. Once the new grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist Web sites, book shops, networks, centers and particular organizations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national.
Secondly, as has already been stated, there will be new anti- terrorism legislation in the autumn. This will include an offense of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the United Kingdom.
Thirdly, anyone who has participated in terrorism or has anything to do with it anywhere will automatically be refused asylum in our country.
Fourth, we already have passed to strip citizenship from those individuals with British or dual nationality who act in a way that is contrary to the interests of this country. We will now consult on extending these powers, applying them to naturalized citizens engaged in extremism and making the procedures simpler and more effective.
Fifth, cases such as Rashid Ramda, wanted for the Paris metro bombings 10 years ago, and who is still in the U.K. whilst France seeks extradition, are completely unacceptable. We will begin consultation on setting a maximum time limit for all future extradition cases involving terrorism.
Six, we are already examining a new court procedure which would allow a pre-trial process. We will also examine whether the necessary procedure can be brought about to give us a way of meeting the police and security service request that detention pre-charge of terrorist suspects be significantly extended.
Seven, for those who are British nationals and cannot be deported, we will extend the use of control orders. Any breach can mean imprisonment.
Eight, to expand the court capacity necessary to deal with this and other related issues, the law chancellor will increase the number of special judges hearing such cases.
Nine, we will prescribe Hizb ut-Tahrir and the successor organization of al Muhajiroun. We will also examine the grounds of proscription, to widen them and put forward proposals in the new legislation.
Ten, it is now necessary in order to acquire British citizenship that people attend a citizenship ceremony, swear allegiance to this country and have a rudimentary grasp of the English language. We will review the threshold for this to make sure it is adequate and we will establish, with th e Muslim community, a commission to advise on how consistent with people's complete freedom to worship in the way they want and to follow their own religion and culture, there is better integration of those parts of the community presently inadequately integrated.
I've asked Hazel Blears to make this part of the work she is currently undertaking.
Eleven, we will consult on a new power to order closure of a place of worship which is used as a center for fomenting extremism and will consult with Muslim leaders in respect of those clerics who are not British citizens, to draw up a list of those not suitable to preach who will be excluded from our country in future.
Twelve, we will bring forward the proposed measures on the security of our borders with a series of countries specifically designated for biometric visas over the next year. Meanwhile, the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are compiling an international database of those individuals whose activities or views pose a threat to Britain's security. Anyone on the database will be excluded from entry with any appeal only taking place outside the country.
And we will consult widely on these measures, including with the other political parties, of course. It is evidently a heavy agenda to take forward but it's necessary. And let me also again repeat and make it clear -- if legislation can be made ready in time and the right consensus is achieved, we're ready to recall parliament in September, at least to begin the debate over the measures.
I want to make it clear yet again that this is not in any way whatever aimed at the decent, law abiding Muslim community of Britain. We know that this fringe of extremism does not truly represent Islam. We know British Muslims in general abhor the actions of the extremists. We acknowledge once again Muslim contribution to our country and welcome it, welcome those who visit our country from abroad in peace, welcome those who know that in this country, the respect and tolerance toward others, which we believe in, is the surest guarantee of freedom and progress for people of all religious faiths.
But coming to Britain is not a right. And even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people have no place here.
Over the coming months, in the courts, in parliament, in debate and engagement with all parts of our communities, we will work to turn these sentiments into reality. And that is my duty as prime minister. Right. Sorry for the length of it.
Yes, Sharee (ph)? Yes?
QUESTION: Vicky Young, BBC.
BLAIR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're very welcome.
QUESTION: Sir Ian Blair said this morning that he would have preferred these powers, this extension of powers had been brought in earlier. You and other ministers have warned for some time about possible attacks in Britain and some will say that why didn't you act before the bombings happened here?
BLAIR: One of the reasons why I set out some of the history of this is just to indicate we have actually been acting over a long period of time. Indeed, if I can just read out to you some of the things that have been done. We had the Terrorism Act of 2000, the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act of 2001, the most recent Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2005, which you will remember occurred just before the election, and, I think you will also remember, was fiercely, fiercely opposed in both houses of parliament.
We have also modernized our extradition laws. The Extradition Act of 2003 actually should mean that we can meet the time limit on extradition that we have been talking about. There, of course, is the doubling of the capacity of the MI-5 and the indication for the first time of the Britishness test for citizenship. And the changing of the law to allow terrorist suspects to be detained for up to 14 days.
Now, I think, to be frank, what has changed in the past four weeks, since the attacks on the 7th of July, is that people now understand that when we warn of the terrorist threat, this is not scaremongering. It's real. And what we are going to do -- and this is what we are obviously, the reason for the gap of time now is we've got to get these -- we've got to consult, we've got to get the law in proper shape. But as I said to you a moment or two ago, if we can do that, then obviously it would be sensible for parliament to begin this process as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Sorry. I'm just preparing my question. That's all right.
BLAIR: Well, do you want me to come back to you another time or?
QUESTION: Yes, if you want to go around me first then...
BLAIR: Yes, OK.
Thank you, John.
Parliament, Ernie Bell, 5 News. There was a lot of talk after the initial attacks about how important it was not to alienate the Muslim community by cracking down with new legislation.
Isn't this exactly the danger you're running now? You're talking about closing down Web sites. You're talking about closing down places of worship. You're talking about expelling imams.
Aren't you exactly falling into the trap that a lot of people believe that al Qaeda is setting for the Western governments?
BLAIR: Well, I think that's a very good question, because this is the balance you've got to strike. But you see I think what is interesting is that underlying that is a view that you've got the majority of British society here and the Muslim community there. I don't think that's true. I think you've got the majority of British society, including the majority of the Muslim community, and the fanatics here. And I think people are well able to see the difference between tough measures to drive out extremists and measures aimed at the Muslim community as a whole.
Now, of course there will those who try and exploit it and say this is designed to get a Muslims and so on. I think the Muslim community in this country is far more sensible than that. I think that they know perfectly well that these people are a menace to their own community, never mind to the rest of us. And I believe, with the right discussion and consultation, and there has to be that and that's what I've promised here, it will be supported.
And I have to say, too, that in the Muslim countries that I visit or speak to, they are absolutely out, and, indeed, have already taken measures such as this to make sure that they are protected against this extremism.
All right, John, you've prepared the question. It had better be a good one.
QUESTION: I'm not sure it was worth the wait, but here you go. I'm just -- back on Vicky's point. I mean, we hear what you say about the change of mood. I wonder, though, it seems that this is a classic example of closing a stable door after a horse is bolted. We have been warned for years about the operation of London (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Do you, therefore, concede that London would be a safer place now if the government had been more determined, perhaps, and active earlier?
And just a second point. When you talked about making it an offense to justify suicide bombing not just in Britain, but abroad, isn't that a very, very wide catchall? I mean you could, in theory, be taking about views expressed by particular members of the U.K. parliament, for example.
BLAIR: Well, I don't believe suicide bombing is acceptable anywhere, terrorist attacks, anywhere. And I think we should be very clear about that. See, it's a matter for the courts to decide whether people are guilty of particular offenses or not. But just to return to the earlier point, I think if you look back on what I've been saying in the past four years, I have been constantly saying we need to take these measures. I mean I know people want to sort of gloss over what happened in the months landing up to the election, but I do remind you that we were being fiercely opposed in the measures that we were taking and the actual legislation that we had was being struck down.
Now, anyway, you know, you can go back over this many, many times. But I think you have a different situation now. And what is interesting to me is when I talked to the French prime minister or the Spanish prime minister, it was actions of terrorism in their countries -- the Paris metro bombing, the Madrid terrorist attacks -- which then created the climate, if you like, in which people were prepared to take these measures.
And what's interesting, I think I'm right in saying, is that Italy has just within the past few days proposed a whole series of fresh measures, partly arising out of the London attacks and their own concerns, obviously. I think Holland is doing the same. All over Europe there is this gearing up and I think it's right to do so.
But I think, to be frank, if I had come forward with these measures three or four months ago, I think it would have been a little bit more difficult.
QUESTION: Archie Jossi (ph), Sky News.
Prime Minister, do you intend to screen or vet imams working in British mosques?
BLAIR: What I want to do -- and this is something that has to be discussed very closely with the Muslim community, obviously -- is to be in a position where if someone is a foreign national coming to preach in this country, they are not going to be preaching this type of extremism. And if they do, they've just got to understand, they're not going to come in. And what I'm trying to do here is -- and this will be followed up with the action in the next few weeks, as I think you will see -- is to send a clear signal out that the rules of the game have changed.
We welcome people here who are peaceful and law abiding. People who want to be British citizens should share our values and our way of life. But if you come to our country from abroad, don't meddle in extremism, because if you meddle in it or get engaged in it, you're going to go back out again.
Now, this is the beginning. Let me just say this to people very, very clearly. This is the beginning of -- there will be a lot of battles in the months ahead on this. Let's be quite clear, because of the way that the law has been interpreted over a long period of time. And I am prepared for that, those battles in the months ahead.
But I am also absolutely and completely determined to make sure that this happens.
I don't think we allow two questions at once, but yes?
Yes, this lady here in the middle?
There is no prejudice in favor of the front row, but we'll just take the front row and then come back out.
QUESTION: Right. Reeta Chakrabarti, BBC News 24.
You've said repeatedly that you don't think that there's any link between Britain's involvement in the Iraq war and what happened in London, the two bombings, two sets of bombings in London.
What do you make, then, of the linkage of the two yesterday in that video from Ayman el-Zawahiri?
BLAIR: Well, first of all, again, let me correct -- because I keep being asked this and I keep correcting him and it doesn't seem to make any difference, but there it is. I mean I've never said that those people who are engaged in extremism won't use Iraq as a way to recruit or motivate people, as they do Afghanistan, as they do the issue of Palestine, as they do -- as the video made clear yesterday -- what they call the presence of Western countries in Islamic countries.
They'll use all these things. And I think, you know, the British people know how to deal with the type of comments that were made yesterday in that video.
But I think the other thing that is important to point out worldwide is that these very self-same people who were making those remarks yesterday are the people supporting the killing of wholly innocent people in Iraq, wholly innocent people in Afghanistan, innocent people anywhere in the world who want to live by the rules of democracy. And that's why, you know, when they try to use Iraq or use Afghanistan or use the Palestinian cause as a means of saying, you know, we have justification for what we do, it is a complete obscenity, because what they're actually doing in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, when the people have voted for democracy, is try and stop them getting it.
We'll work on the front row and then come back.
QUESTION: Colin Brown of "The Independent."
You said, Prime Minister, that there have been isolated cases of religious and racial attacks. But "The Independent" found in its own survey that there were cases right across the country, right up to West Yorkshire.
What do you say to both sides of the community about the need to stop these sorts of acts? And, also, is any administrative action being planned about asylum seekers who have overstayed or are still in this country illegally?
BLAIR: I mean such attacks or abuse, racial abuse of any sort, are completely and totally unacceptable. The only thing I'd say is, I mean, I know there was, you know, discussion of the increase and -- of such attacks -- is that I really don't believe they represent the mainstream British community of whatever ethnic background. I think this country knows the part or the purpose of this terrorism is to get Muslims against Christians, you know, people of one race or religion against another, and they're resistant to it because they don't like it and they don't believe in it.
So I'm not in any way diminishing the importance of tackling anybody who engages in this type of activity, but I really do think it does not represent where the majority of the country is.
On asylum, well, of course, the asylum removals, you see, I think people often don't understand what the problem is in removing failed asylum seekers. The problem is different from the problem in removing foreign nationals who are a threat to our security.
The problem in relation to failed asylum seekers is this, and it's why even though Britain -- and, again, people don't often understand this -- Britain actually removes proportionately, and I think, actually, in absolute terms, more asylum -- failed asylum seekers than any other country in Europe. But the problem with removing failed asylum seekers is that in order to remove somebody, you need to have a country that is prepared to accept them as one of their nationals and document them as such.
And the problem in asylum has always been -- although we're trying to rectify this, which is why we're acting both on our own account and within Europe -- is that countries will often refuse to accept that someone is one of their nationals. And one of the abuses, I'm afraid, that has happened with the asylum process, which is why it's so important to reduce radically the numbers applying for asylum, which we have done, is that people will come in, for example, claiming they're an Iranian and they're not an Iranian, or claiming they're from Zimbabwe and not being a Zimbabwean. Which is why it's important that we continue with a pretty tough series of messages on that.
QUESTION: Bob Roberts from "The Mirror."
Prime Minister, can you give us an idea of how many people you expect to be excluded or deported under these new powers? Do you think we're just talking about a handful of people or will it run into dozens or maybe even hundreds?
BLAIR: Well, we're certainly not talking about a handful. But I think it's for the home secretary and the police and the immigration services to decide that. But in my view, anybody who is a foreign national who is inciting or engaged in extremism in this country should be out.
QUESTION: Heppier Courier (ph) from "The Daily Record."
Prime Minister, George Galloway launched an extremely personal attack on you this morning, suggesting that you had more blood on your hands than the London bombers and comparing you to a terrorist.
What would you say to him and people from whatever community they come from who feel like him? And would some of the comments he's made, particularly referring to suicide bombers as martyrs, in theory, be covered under your plans to exclude or deport people, whether they're British nationals or otherwise?
BLAIR: Well, you can't deport people who are British nationals, right? But...
QUESTION: Internal orders then and then imprisonment.
BLAIR: Look, I'm not going to enter into a shouting match with that particular person, because I'm sure that's what he wants and I don't think I should give it to him.
QUESTION: Paul Wolf from the "Evening Standard."
Can I just get a bit clearer on how these new powers would work? Would it be an offense, for example, for a broadcaster to broadcast a video such as the al Qaeda one, because that you could say that that was inciting terrorism? Would it be -- I mean, also, given the breadth of this definition, would it mean that Palestinian leaders would be excluded from coming to the U.K., those who tacitly support suicide bombings?
I mean how wide do you think the remit will be of the new powers?
BLAIR: Well, it's certainly not going to include, you know, the broadcasters who broadcast those comments, because they're not in broadcasting inciting it. And it's for the courts to decide. But, you know, this idea of justifying or inciting, it's not unknown to the law. And we obviously have to draw the law out carefully. But I don't -- you know, let me just make it very clear to you. In my view, anybody who is coming from abroad into our country, and coming here to say suicide bombing is a good thing, and these people are heroes, and they should do more of it, and all of the rest of the appalling rubbish that we've heard, they shouldn't come into Britain. And if they're here, they should leave.
BLAIR: Well, I don't think he has, to be fair.
QUESTION: He said he understands why Palestinians use their bodies...
BLAIR: Well, that may be a different thing if people are talking about, you know, understanding and so on. And I'm not here to curtail proper political debate. But, you know, there's a great British characteristic, which is called "common sense." And I think people understand the common sense difference between people who may have political views I don't agree with you and you don't agree with and people who are actively engaged in trying to incite people to kill others or justifying it. And I personally don't believe anything that I've read from that particular (INAUDIBLE) could possibly qualify for that.
Yes, Trevor and George to the right there.
QUESTION: Trevor Kamor (ph) from "The Sun." Prime minister, since these measures do not (INAUDIBLE) acts of parliament, will they be retrospective in the sense that they will apply to those people already on the record as using inflammatory and proselytizing language? And secondly, would you accept that those people who have indeed listened to you saying over the last four years that attacks like we've seen in London over the last few weeks were inevitable, that they may be bewildered to discover that these measures were available for the home secretary without an act of parliament throughout of all of this time? And that that some may even wonder had they been in operation we might not have had those attacks?
BLAIR: Well, the answer to your first question is yes, insofar as they are measures to do with deportation and the administrative changes. The answer to that is yes. The legislative changes, of course, do require legislation. And in any event, some of these measures require, you know, detailed consultation. But whether measures are there administratively or legislatively, I think most people recognize that the climate in which these measures are being taken is somewhat different today.
QUESTION: George Stent (ph) from "The Telegraph." Prime minister, I was struck by earlier where you said people who have come to this country need to share our way of life. Many people feel that some of the immigrant communities actually have a separate way of life. I mean, they want very separate distinctive (INAUDIBLE) separate schools. And David Davis (ph) (INAUDIBLE) said it's time to end multi-cultures, and it's time integrate these people far more into mainstream life. Do you agree with that?
BLAIR: I never quite know what to -- I mean, even though I must say I use the term myself occasionally, quite what people mean when they talk about multi-culturism, if they mean people living in their separate cultures and never integrating at any point together, I think that's actually certainly not what I mean by the word. And I don't think it's what most people would regard as sensible. And so I think you can get hung up on the word, to be absolutely frank, and debating exactly what it means.
But let me tell you what I think about this, and part of the announcement that I made was that we would look with the Muslim community at how we establish a commission, which specifically addresses the question of integration and to see whether there are in particular parts of the Muslim community real problems. Because I think most of us understand that there is an issue here that needs to be dealt with and tackled.
And I think, again, to use British common sense on that, I think most people understand that you can have your own religion and your own culture, but still feel integrated into the mainstream of a community. You know, and I think most people understand that's the balance.
I think when people are sort of isolated in their own communities, for example, when you've got people who may be here, you know, sometimes 20 years or more and who still don't speak English, that worries me. I mean, it worries me, because I think there's a separateness there that may be unhealthy. And I think we just need to look at that and look at it in an honest way, and then from the experience of other countries as well.
We'll move along this -- you'll want to stand up.
QUESTION: Amin Asid (ph) from "Al Kutz Salabi" (ph). I'd like to say that it seems to me that many of these leaders of terrorist groups like, for example, Haron Rashid (ph), who has gone to -- he wants to come and be dealt with here, because he believes that this is a just country, even in dealing with terrorists, people like Abu Katada (ph) and so on. He doesn't want to be deported to Jordan, because he believes that this is a just country, and more just than any European or western country.
If you change this -- I'm not saying that these people shouldn't be dealt with strongly, but what I am saying, we have an image here of having a justice that is above all of the rest in Europe and the western world. By these measures, you are bringing us down to the level of the others, first.
Second, what I am saying, today I heard on CNN that Lindsey Germaine (ph), the fourth bomber, they don't know the link with the three other Pakistanis. The 7 July bombings, it's not yet very clear whether they have a Muslim origin or any other incitement and so on. They're still dealing with it, the police and so on.
So, you are coming with measures that will change the face of our culture, the face of our society and all together at a time when we haven't really decided whether that's the right course to do. Why don't you engage these people, you know, bring them here, put them in prisons? And let's try to engage them and change their views, people like Abu Katada (ph) and so on, and (INAUDIBLE) have residencies and British citizenships and things like this. By putting these laws, you are inciting others.
BLAIR: I've got the point. We are very proud of our justice system here. And we're very proud of the British way of life. And we're very proud of the fact that we treat people fairly, that we welcome in people who are fleeing persecution. But I'm sorry, people can't come here and abuse our good nature and our tolerance. They can't come here and start inciting our young people in communities to take up violence against British people here. And if they do that, they're going to go back.
I'm sorry, there's no point in us kidding ourselves about the nature of this problem. It's there. It's in our communities. And we've got to root it out.
Now, part of it is rooting it out internationally. I agree. And we will go through a proper judicial process with proper assurances from countries to which they are going to be returned. But if people want to come here as refugees fleeing persecution or as people seeking a different and better way of life, they come here and they play by our rules and our way of life. If they don't, they're going to have to go, because they're threatening people in our country, and that's not right either.
And the way to protect our way of life is to respond very clearly to that clear view of the British people that, yes, we have responded to the July 7 attacks by saying we want to keep our country together. We want to respect all of our communities, including the Muslim community. But we also want to deal with the extremists in our ranks, because that is a way of protecting our way of life. And that is honestly the only way you can deal with this.
Yes, these three. Yes, I know. Don't worry. We've got a bit of time.
QUESTION: Hadi Diehl (ph) from the Syrian Media Center. Sir, what is needed from Syria? Because we hear all of the time criticism about what Syria is doing with regard to insurgents, et cetera? We didn't find any sort of real communication or data communication on the part of the United States or the United Kingdom. We heard yesterday Mr. Rumsfeld saying that Syria's behavior is unwise. We're always hearing these things.
An active engagement and direct (INAUDIBLE) of how Syria could help, and nothing has -- Syrian sent 10,000 soldiers to the borders, and it was promised by the United Kingdom for technical staff for the borders. You know, the United States cannot protect its border with Mexico. But a proof needs to be found without continuing this sort of criticism. An active engagement and dialogue with Syria is (INAUDIBLE). We understand that Britain is the master of dialogue.
BLAIR: And we're happy to have that dialogue with Syria any time. And indeed we have been in communication with Syria often. But if there's more active engagement that Syria wants on this issue of allowing these terrorists who have crossed the Syrian border into Iraq, we will have that dialogue and engagement.
But we do want to make it clear, it isn't acceptable. They can't be allowed to cross the border and come into Iraq and start killing people or trying to kill our troops, who are there with the United Nations mandate now.
So, I'm very happy -- and please relay this message back. I'm very happy to have that engagement and dialogue in any structured way that Syria wants. But they have to understand there is a United Nations mandate for a democratic government and for the presence of the multinational force now in Iraq. And it is the obligation of every country to give support for that mandate and not undermine it. And I hope people understand that.
Yes, sir. And then -- yes.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE). Prime minister, would you comment on the (INAUDIBLE) statement that the British Muslim (INAUDIBLE) in this country (INAUDIBLE)?
BLAIR: Sorry. I didn't catch it all.
QUESTION: The statement by the defense secretary...
QUESTION: ... saying that the British Muslims (INAUDIBLE) here (INAUDIBLE).
BLAIR: Well, I don't -- look, he -- and I haven't actually read the remarks myself. But I just want to make one thing clear -- because it's very important in the light of the difficulty in trying to do something like this -- is that British Muslims should understand they are our partners in getting this done. We need their help and assistance in getting this done. But in the conversations I've had, formally and informally, with British Muslims over the past few weeks, they are as desperate as anyone else, in some ways more desperate, to make sure this extremism is weeded out and dealt with, because they don't want it contaminating the reputation of British Muslims. British Muslims make a great contribution to this country. And they don't want a gang of extremists affecting their good name.
QUESTION: Amy Kellogg (ph), Fox News. Prime minister, two things. One, there's been so much talk in the press about a third real threat, a third cell ready to attack. And Scotland Yard keeps denying that there has been such intelligence, that it keeps resurfacing in various media reports. So, I'm just wondering if you have anything to say about that.
Secondly, I've met with some Muslim leaders this week, who have told me that even before the attacks, the government was very proactive in trying to work on matters of integration. So they seemed pleased with that. But this whole issue of the Internet world seems like it's going to be a much harder nut to crack. And I'm wondering how you even begin to go about that one.
BLAIR: Well, I mean, I've got nothing really to add to what the police have said. I think the difficulty that we have is that it's a statement of the obvious in a way that given what has happened we don't know what else may be out there. But we're trying to make sure, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sure that we can find out. And in the meantime, we obviously want to be very, very vigilant and alert. But I can assure you, we're working on that as hard as we possibly can. But, you know, what the police and security services are basically saying is right.
And in respect to the Internet world, well, I think this is something we have to look at internationally as well. This is a real problem, because these sort of extremist Internet sites are a very, very direct incitement. And they're used extensively by people who want to ferment this type of hatred. And I think we are -- you know, still, I hope in the international summit that's taking place in September on some of this, where the United Nations are trying to bring people to take firmer action on terrorism, I hope we can start looking at how we can across borders deal with some of these issues, because it is a real problem.
And, you know, I think that the more I think about this type of phenomenon that we're dealing with, and it's why I see this as a global threat that has to be handled at a number of different levels, including the level of ideas and ideologies, as well as security measures, is that I think it's got something of the same characteristics of revolutionary communism, you know, in the sense that it's got an ideology. It's very extreme. But it can be used to engage young people at a certain level and in a certain way. It's got often the cells of it have a loose association with one another. But on the other hand, they've got this ideology that binds them together. They know the types of places they can go to, to get the information and to try and stimulate this type of extremism.
And you've got to deal with it in a way that recognizes its roots are very deep, very extensive around the world. And you need to pull them out at the same time as dealing with all of the rest of it. That's why what happens in the Middle East is very important. What happens in the Middle East is a very important part of winning this battle here. And what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important part of winning this battle here, because it is a battle of ideas.
And what these people want to say is the purpose of western policy, American policy in particular, is to suppress Islam. Now, you may agree or disagree with American policy, but that's not its purpose. And if we can achieve democracy in certain countries, that starts to send a very different signal. And that's an important part of winning this battle of ideas so that people in the end become less attractive to this propaganda, because it's so obviously countered by reality. It's also why I've always said it's important that we try and make progress in the Middle East.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) Middle East. Prime minister, just taking further what George said, which (INAUDIBLE) that British citizens are urged (INAUDIBLE) and the question of integration. It is actually all sort of (INAUDIBLE) policy of political correctness and pushing for this multi-culturism. And specifically, on the local government level, which (INAUDIBLE) actually teaches, teaching young children immigrants the British way of life and the values, which actually attracted their parents to come and live in this country. I mean, the parents came to live here out of choice, the way of life. So don't we actually need to really look into this policy of political correctness and re-examine and allow schools to teach them British values rather than the segregation under the name of multi- culturism?
BLAIR: Yes, I mean, you've got to be careful of exaggerations, but occasionally you read about this. But, I mean, I probably visit more schools than any other prime minister before me, including schools with -- I mean, I visited one the other day, a couple of weeks ago that I think it's something like 70 or 80 different languages spoken in the school. But that was a perfect example of (INAUDIBLE) language is spoken, but people are actually trying to help the kids from those various backgrounds integrate. And most schools, I'm quite sure, do that. I mean, I'm about the least politically correct person there is on this type of thing.
So, you know, we do need to look at how we do this. But I think it's a slightly wider problem. And that's why I think it's helpful to sit down with the community and say, how do we -- how is the best and most sensitive way of dealing with this? Because what you don't want is a situation where people feel they can't have their own culture and religion. I mean, people want that, and there is absolutely no harm in that at all. It's the balance.
And most people find no difficulty at all. I mean, if you talk to -- as I say, the majority of the Muslim community or the Hindu community here or the Sikh community here or the Jewish community here or the Chinese community, any of those communities integrate very intensely, but they still keep their own culture alive and their own identity. And I think that's fine. I don't think that's a problem.
I think it only becomes a problem where people, as it were, withdraw from the common culture and the mainstream. I think when they withdraw and become separate in a very deliberate way, that is unhealthy, in my view.
Now, I know that that is not necessarily, you know, very -- and I'm sure that my remarks tomorrow will be misinterpreted in a multitude of different ways. But I think most people know what I mean by that, which is to say not that Muslims shouldn't carry on being Muslims, and Jews with Jewish practices, and Christian with Christian practices, but that we in a certain common wheel come together. And that's the point.
Yes, sir, and then Robin.
QUESTION: My name is Ahmed Rassi (ph) from "Muslim News." You said that you want to have a dialogue with the Muslim community. You had one meeting on 12 July, and so did the home secretary. In both of these meetings, the majority of the Muslim community leaders emphasizes that they wanted an independent judiciary inquiry in the 7 July bombings. Now, will you take this view of the Muslim community leaders seriously? I've talked to many others since then, and they want to know exactly what happened, why did these young kids go and do the bombings. So they want an independent judiciary inquiry. Would you take that on board? BLAIR: I don't think it's so much it's a judicial inquiry that we need into what happened, because we can see that very easily. What we need to explore with the community is why these young people came to this extreme and fanatical view and did what they did. And, you know, look, the trouble is you will always find someone who makes a remark, and it gets, you know, exaggerated in the way it's reported and so on from different parts of the community. And part of the difficulty is that, as with every other walk of life, the sort of silent moderate majority often doesn't get its voice heard, because it's not saying anything very sensational.
But, you know, Muslims I've talked to in the past few weeks, as I say, informally, which almost matters as much to me as talking to people around the cabinet table, they know perfectly well that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. And they want to have it dealt with. What they do want, however, is to have it dealt with, with them part of the solution, partnering the rest of the country, not having it done to them. And that's the important thing.
And it's also likewise, where you've got, you know, people saying, well, the people you have around the cabinet table, the people that Hazel meets or Charles meets, you know, how do you get down to the young radicals and all of the rest of it? That's a perfectly reasonable point, and we have to look at how we get the right role models going into the community and the right people talking about, you know, how Muslims do integrate properly, how many people have, you know, to be fair. That's what the majority do.
We also will need to challenge, though. That's my point. I mean, this extremism needs to be challenged as well as simply understood.
ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Robin Oakley, CNN. Prime minister, a couple of specifics from your earlier answers), if I may. You are going to deal with preachers who preach hatred and back terrorism. But I'm still not clear whether there is going to be screening of imams coming into the country and being appointed to mosques. And if so, is that screening going to be conducted by the Muslim community or by the government?
Secondly, police are asking for the powers to detain terror suspects up to three months instead of two weeks as at present. You seem to be talking of an extension. How much of an extension are you prepared to go for?
And on the -- you say the police and security services are right to warn of a continuing danger. Just how specific is that danger in J-Tac (ph) terms? Does that mean they and you believe there is a group out there with the intention and the capability to inflict something as bad as July the 7th?
BLAIR: Now, on that latter point, it's not -- I mean, I'm saying more than they're saying, which is, I mean, obviously if we know something specific is about to happen we take action on it. But plainly, we should be on our guard.
And I don't -- I think it's best that they talk to you about that. And don't let me cut across what they're saying, because they will choose their words very carefully, and I want to choose my words carefully on that, too. But I think really what they're saying is, look, it stands to reason, because of what's happened in the past few weeks, we've got to be extremely vigilant.
And on your first point, yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. I'm saying we have -- that we should -- and this has got to be -- we've got to work out the way to do this with the Muslim community. Let me be, you know, very clear about that. But we need a situation where you don't come in as a foreign cleric to come preach in this country if you're one of these people who is going to come in and preach this type of extremism. And those who are foreign nationals that are preaching this type of extremism, I'm afraid they're going to have to go back, because they shouldn't be doing it here.
In respect of the issue of suspects, that's where the police and security service have asked for. And what I'm saying is, let's examine whether this new procedure we're already looking at, which would allow some form of judicial oversight, to be applied to their request. I mean, I want basically to give them the powers that they need, but obviously when you're talking about depriving people of their liberty, there has to be a proper judicial process.
QUESTION: Thank you. Allison Little (ph), "Daily Express." You spoke earlier that in your opening statement you said that if necessary you might consider amending the Human Rights Act to deal with issues of its interpretation. Are you not concerned by the warnings of lawyers, including one you know quite well? I think she's Cherie Booth (ph). But in difficult times like this, countries can be tempted into interfering with the independence of the courts and taking action that would be regretted further down the line.
If I may also ask, what do you say to Christians who point out that while you were presiding at the G8 summit (INAUDIBLE) that was overtaken by the awful attacks in London, that you were talking about Africa and dealing with the poverty there? Niger was already tipping into this awful catastrophe, that it is now suffering, and there's now only that nothing was done to stop it. Thank you.
BLAIR: Yes, on the last point, I'm a bit mystified by this (INAUDIBLE) the fact we're one of the third largest contributors to the relief effort in Niger.
But what the G8 did was announce an action plan. We've got to follow it through. The very fact of having a G8 meeting doesn't suddenly solve the problem of Niger or anywhere else in Africa. But if you implement what we agreed at the G8, (INAUDIBLE). So that's why you've got to do it.
And the fact is, if we had had the proposals in place from the G8 in respect to Sudan, it would never have happened. So, you've certainly got to follow it through.
In respect to the first point, you know, I don't think that we should allow ourselves to be backed into an argument, and (INAUDIBLE) do I think this is remotely what was being said. But I don't think we should allow ourselves to be backed into an argument, where we say when you're protecting national security, you're interfering with civil rights or civil liberties.
Article 2 of the European Convention is the right to life. The European Convention specifically recognizes that you've got to bear to protect your citizens and their right to be free from attack or free from terrorism.
So, I think it's not so much a question, in fact, of saying we put national security above civil liberties. On the contrary, it's more a question of saying, what is the right balance between the rights of people to say what they want or do certain things and the rights of other people to be free from attack or free from fear? And that's the balance that has to be struck in any situation where you're debating rights.
And I don't and never have accepted this idea that somehow, you know, that there is a clash between the concept of human rights and the concepts of protecting the country from terrorism. People have a right to be protected from terrorism. They also have the right to speak out, but the right to speak out carries with it a responsibility. And part of the responsibility is not to go and incite people to do something that interfere with the rights of the law-abiding citizens. And that's the best I think to look at it.
QUESTION: Graham Molsem (ph) from the "Daily Mail."
COSTELLO: I'm Carol Costello. You're watching DAYBREAK. Actually, our program is over. We head to "AMERICAN MORNING" now to join Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien. From the Time Warner center, we bid you adieu.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Carol. I'm Miles O'Brien. A developing story in Iraq, 20 Marines killed this week in Haditha. And now the U.S. military hits back. A thousand Marines and Iraqi troops pouring into the area on a new combat mission. We are live with the latest on Operation Quick Strike.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com.