CNN – 2005-07-22 08:01:42
LONDON, England (July 20, 2005) — Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected comments by London’s mayor that Western “double standards” in the Middle East contributed to the growth of Islamic extremism and terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
A spokesman for Blair, who announced Wednesday his desire for a global conference on Islamic extremism in the wake of the London bombings, said the PM and Ken Livingstone had “different views of the world.”
Livingstone had told BBC radio that Western intervention in the Middle East since the end of World War I had been motivated by a desire to control the flow of oil.
While condemning suicide bombings, Livingstone indicated he recognized the conditions that had led Palestinians to take that route in Israel.
“Under foreign occupation and denied a right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs … I suspect that if it had happened here in England we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves,” said Livingstone.
“But I don’t just denounce suicide bombers. I denounce those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their foreign policy.”
While dismissing Livingstone’s comments, a Downing Street spokesman the UK’s Press Association: “We recognize that Ken Livingstone has provided, as an elected official in London, a lead to the people of London at this tragic time — at the same time as he expresses views which we fundamentally disagree with.”
Blair said Wednesday he was considering calling a global conference to discuss ways of tackling Islamic extremism following the July 7 bombings on London’s transit system that killed 52 people and injured hundreds more. The four bombers were also killed in the attacks.
“We are looking at the possibility of holding a conference which would bring together some of the main countries who are closely involved in these issues,” he said.
Blair said his conference on Islamic fundamentalism would focus on rooting out extremist teaching in religious schools, known as madrassas, and said concerted action was needed across the world.
After meeting Muslim leaders Tuesday, Blair described extremism as an “evil ideology” that needed to be confronted “by the force of reason.”
Blair also praised the work of British intelligence and security officials following a report in the New York Times which claimed the UK’s terror alert was lowered prior to the London bombings because no imminent threat was anticipated. (Full Story)
“Though it is terrible that these terrorist attacks took place … over the past few years our security services and our police have done an immense amount to protect this country also,” Blair said.
He said he was satisfied they had done “everything possible” to reduce the terror risk and said the government was moving in the “right direction” to combat the threat of further attacks with new anti-terror legislation.
In a briefing before Parliament on Wednesday, Home Secretary Charles Clarke outlined three new criminal offenses at the heart of the government’s proposals.
One provision would make the indirect incitement of terrorism an offense, a measure intended to silence radical clerics who have praised terrorist attacks.
Another proposed offense would be acts considered preparatory to terrorism. That would enable security authorities to intervene at an earlier stage to protect the public.
A third would apply a broader definition applied to the giving and receiving of terrorist training.
Clarke said the government also intended to establish a database of extremists around the world who had demonstrated “unacceptable behavior,” such as preaching intended to provoke terrorism and running extremist Web sites.
Anyone on the list would face possible exclusion from the UK, or could be refused entry to the country.
Powers already exist for the home secretary to exclude individuals on grounds of national security or public order, but Clarke said they had to be applied “more widely and systematically both to people before they come to the UK and when they are here.”
“In the circumstances we now face, I have decided it is right to broaden the use of these powers to deal with those who foment terrorism or seek to provoke others to terrorist acts,” he said.
“There is unity of purpose. The Government wants to work with other parties to make sure we have the most effective anti-terrorism legislation on our statute book. Similarly we want to work with the Muslim community to isolate and weaken dangerous extremists.”
CNN’s European Political Editor Robin Oakley said lawmakers would consider the legislation on their return from summer recess in October and could pass the measures by December.
British Muslim leaders said Wednesday they had called for an independent judicial inquiry into what motivated the London bombings during their talks with Blair at Downing Street.
“The scale of disenchantment amongst Muslim youth is very clear to see,” Inayat Bungalwala of the Muslim Council of Britain told the Associated Press.
“Various factors are at play: underachievement in education; a high rate of unemployment; discrimination in the workplace; social exclusion, and also the government’s own policies, especially in Iraq.
“The process of how we get four homegrown suicide bombers must be understood and that is why we are calling for an inquiry.”
The Home Office said Clarke would decide whether to open an inquiry in September, AP reported.
Also Wednesday, a Pakistani official said British investigators had asked Pakistan to pick up a number of men for questioning in connection with the bombings. (Full story)
Meanwhile, the final list of the 52 victims of the July 7 attack was released Wednesday. It shows citizens from at least 10 countries were among commuters killed in the London bombings.
In addition to British citizens, the victims included three Polish women, an Afghani, an American, an Australian, an Iranian, an Israeli, a Nigerian, a New Zealander, and a Turk.
The Metropolitan Police force, which is leading the investigation, does not expect the list to grow further.
European Political Editor Robin Oakley contributed to this report.
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