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PM speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet - 11/11

PM speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet

The Prime Minister Tony Blair has told Saddam Hussein not to defy the United Nations and disarm voluntarily or be 'disarmed by force'. Mr Blair was speaking at the Lord Mayor's Banquet, where he also outlined the new threats facing the world today and the measures needed to deal with them.

The Prime Minister said that Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) was one aspect of the new dangers facing the world - the other was 'extremism driven by fanaticism'.

The Prime Minister added that the terrorist attacks on September 11 and in Bali showed that 'today's breed of terrorist knows no bounds - of geography, of inhumanity, or of scale.'

On dealing with the specific threat to UK interests, Mr Blair said the government had to ensure that security measures taken were consistent with the 'desire of people to live normal lives' and added that people must remain 'alert' and 'vigilant', whether in the UK or travelling abroad.

Mr Blair warned that terrorism would not be defeated just by security measures but by a international community that was 'unified' in its political response. This unity, added the Prime Minister, could be achieved by:

Reaching out to the Arab and Moslem world by helping those countries going through a period of transition. In addition, moving the Middle East peace process forward to a solution of an Israeli state, recognised by all and a viable Palestinian state;
Helping failed nations recover, like Afghanistan. Mr Blair also pointed to the expansion of the EU. Countries in the Balkans, that have been plagued by war, are given hope 'by the possibility of coming fully into Europe', Mr Blair said; and
Creating understanding between religious faiths - Mr Blair said that young people needed to be brought up with a clear understaning of other faiths.
The Prime Minister said it was 'absolutely right' to tackle terrorism and WMD. However the world needed a 'broader agenda', which included dealing with, for example, the famine in Ethiopia. Mr Blair added:

"...if a unified international community is the surest way to defeat these new dangers, we need to construct the broad agenda around which unity can coalesce."

In conclusion, Mr Blair said that an act of terrorism carried out thousands of miles away from the UK was just as significant on the streets of London or in the villages of County Durham due to the interdependence of the modern world. The Prime Minister said:

"The interdependence of the modern world has never been clearer; the need for a common response never greater; the values of freedom, justice and tolerance of our diversity never more relevant; and the need to apply them fairly across the world never more urgent."


FULL TRANSCRIPT...

Full text of the Prime Minister's speech at the Lord Mayor's Banquet


[Check against delivery]

Last Friday was an important day for the world. After months of debate, the United Nations came together and made its will plain. Saddam now has to decide: There is no dispute with the Iraqi people. Iraq's territorial integrity will be absolute. The dispute is with Saddam. It is now up to him as to how it is resolved: by peace or by conflict.

WMD is but one aspect of the new dangers we face. The Cold War has ended. The great ideological battle between Communism and Western liberal democracy is over. Most countries believe both in markets and in a necessary role for Government. There will be thunderous debates inside nations about the balance, but the struggle for world hegemony by political ideology is gone.

What preoccupies decision-makers now is a different danger. It is extremism driven by fanaticism, personified either in terrorist groups or rogue states.

As we have seen from recent atrocities, whether the attacks of September 11 last year, Bali, the attack on the French ship off Yemen, the Russian theatre siege, today's breed of terrorist knows no bounds - of geography, of inhumanity, or of scale. They are looking for ever more dramatic and devastating outrages to inflict upon the people they claim to be their enemy. There is this added dimension: it is not just that they care nothing for the lives of others, they care nothing for the loss of their own life.

At the moment, barely a day goes by without some new piece of intelligence coming via our security services about a threat to UK interests. Some of it will be based on sources in Britain and abroad. Some of it will be reliable; some of it may be misinformation being fed in to waste our time chasing shadows. Some of it will be gossip. Other material will be based on technical intelligence gathering. This kind of material is crossing the desks of the intelligence agencies, my desk, the Home Secretary's desk, all the time, and other nations are in exactly the same situation.

Tonight I want to take you through the dilemma that confronts us in meeting this threat and explain to you our strategy for it. The purpose of terrorism is of course not just to kill and maim. As the name suggests, terrorism is about terror. It is to scare people, disrupt their normal lives, produce chaos and disorder, distort proper and sensible decision-making. The dilemma is reconciling warning people with alarming them; taking preventive measures without destroying normal life.

Our strategy is as follows. Where there is specific intelligence about a particular attack, we act to thwart it directly. Where we know cells of Al-Qaida are operating, here or abroad, our services are monitoring them, disrupting them, where possible, dealing with those involved; if they are here, prosecuting, detaining or expelling them. Where there is intelligence suggesting potential targets, we increase surveillance or security as far as we can without causing unnecessary hardship or alarm to the public.

But there is a balance to be struck. After the attack in Bali there were suggestions that somehow because the US had issued a general warning to Americans not to gather in large groups, this meant we knew something, that we were holding back on telling the public.

But if, on the basis of a general warning, we were to shut down all the places that Al-Qaeda might be considering for attack, we would be doing their job for them. If we acted on every piece of raw intelligence in a way that some were suggesting after Bali, we would have in my time as Prime Minister on many occasions shut down roads, railways, airports, stations, shopping centres, factories, military installations. If a terrorist thought that all he had to do to shut down the travel industry for example was to issue a threat against our airports, we really would be conceding defeat in the war against terrorism.

So we make a judgement, day by day, week by week. So the international community has to work together to ensure the safest possible transport systems and tough laws, and proper inter-agency co-operation. Government has to ensure we take whatever security measures we can, consistent with the desire of people to live normal lives. Businesses have to ensure that the security measures we advised in the wake of September 11 continue to be implemented. Whether here in the UK or when travelling abroad, all of us as citizens have to be alert, vigilant, and to cooperate fully with the relevant authorities.

This is a new type of war, fought in a different way by different means. But as with all wars, it will test not just our ability to fight, but our character, our resilience and our belief in our own way of life. It is a war I have total confidence we will win, but it will not be without pain or come without a price.

Terrorism and WMD are linked dangers. States which are failed, which repress their people brutally, in which notions of democracy and the rule of law are alien, share the same absence of rational boundaries to their actions as the terrorist. Iraq has used WMD. North Korea's admission that it has a programme to produce Highly Enriched Uranium was an important confession. We know North Korea has traded ballistic missile technology. We know there are other highly unstable states who want to get their hands on Highly Enriched Uranium. With it, a nuclear weapon could be a step away. Just reflect on it and the danger is clear.

And terrorism and WMD have the potential, at least, to be directly linked. Would Al-Qaida buy WMD if it could? Certainly. Do they have the financial resources? Probably. Would they use them? Definitely.

So these are new and different dangers. It's not like the old Soviet bloc versus NATO. There, defensive alliances were formed; crises occurred, often serious; but in a funny way, the world knew where it was. The year 2002 is different. These dangers can strike at any time, across any national boundary and in pursuit of a cause with which there can be little or no rational negotiation.

One part of our response is security, intelligence, policing and where necessary military action. But above all, the international community needs to be unified in its political response.

This is the other danger: not just terrorism or WMD, but polarised opinion in how we deal with them: Europe dividing off from the US; the Arab world versus the West; Moslem versus Christian.

I remember a few weeks ago, doing a Q&A session with young people. In the audience were some young British Moslems. They were obviously bright, born in Britain, with a good future here, intelligent and articulate. And convinced: one, that the US was the real threat to world peace; and two, that the reason Iraq was in our sights, was that it was a Moslem country. In vain did I point out that Saddam had killed many more Moslems than any Western Government; or that when we took on Milosevic, we were fighting an Orthodox Christian oppressing Moslems.

The point I'm making is that these new threats confronting the world aren't conventional: and they can't be fought by conventional means alone. We will not defeat terrorism only by security measures.

We must accept that there is a significant part of the world that is, at present, deeply inimical to all we stand for and is so from a mixture of tradition, ignorance of our true motives and values and from a belief that we are governed by a one-sided view of what is just.

I believe this view to be profoundly mistaken but I believe it to be real. And it menaces the very unity we need in confronting the dangers before us. What can we do?

First, we need to reach out to the Arab and Moslem world. Where countries are undergoing a process of transition, we need to help. Where there are problems between us, we need to engage vigorously. Above all, we need to understand the passion and anger the state of the Middle East Peace Process arouses. I don't want to repeat what I have said so often before. But I would make just this one point. I understand entirely the reasons why Israel has taken action to combat the terrorism it suffers from. Any country faced with its citizens being blown up in cafes, discos, restaurants, buses, innocent people savagely murdered going about their daily business - I say, any country in these circumstances, will act and has a duty to do so.

But without moving towards a just and final settlement based on President Bush's speech of June, the Palestinians, the majority of whom are also innocent victims of this tragedy, are consigned to the most abject state of poverty and despair.

The answer is not to apportion blame. The answer is to move the process forward: on security, on political reform, on the only viable solution the whole world now supports - an Israeli state, recognised by all and a viable Palestinian state. And to do it quickly. Until this happens, this issue hangs like a dark shadow over our world, chilling our relations with each other, poisoning the understanding of our motives, providing the cover under which the fanatics build strength.

Second, we need to be prepared to help failed or failing nations recover. Afghanistan is the clearest example of regime change effected by the international community. It has to work. Investment in Afghanistan today - in money, time, troops and energy, will be repaid many times over. It will be visible proof that we are responsible actors, that compassion is as important to us as the use of force, where necessary. The most remarkable example of helping nations that have failed, is on our own continent of Europe. In 2004 the EU will become 25 nations. I hope no later than 2007 Romania and Bulgaria will join. Balkan nations, plagued by war, division and collapse are seeing, even if only in the distant future, the possibility of coming fully into Europe and it is giving them hope. Every dollar spent now in assisting them, is also assisting us to create a more stable and prosperous Europe.

Third, we need to create bridges of understanding between religious faiths also. Part of the fanaticism is religious. Part of the solution lies in religion too. George Carey's work in the inter-faith field was pioneering especially in the Alexandria Process, which I commend. Within Islam, moderate voices are now speaking up, the world over. They need encouragement. Young people need to be brought up with a clear understanding of other faiths, respect them and cultivate knowledge both of differences and the vast areas of common values and traditions of which so many are ignorant.

Finally, what brings all these things together is a sense of justice, of fairness in our dealings with each other. There can be coalitions of force. But these are always stronger when buttressed by a coalition of common ideas, of a shared agenda. To put it plainly, I believe that we are absolutely right to tackle terrorism and WMD and would be irresponsible to ignore the threat they pose. But I also believe the world needs a broader agenda than simply terrorism and WMD. And we need full US engagement and leadership on all of it. President Bush recognises that. Witness the decision to go through the UN on Iraq; the new relationship between NATO and Russia; last June's agreement on a plan for Africa agreed at the G8. But the world needs to see that for example the famine in Ethiopia, the looming crisis in Southern Africa can demand and receive our attention and energy too.

The point is simply this: if a unified international community is the surest way to defeat these new dangers, we need to construct the broad agenda around which unity can coalesce.

The UN Resolution on Iraq was a vital step in this direction: a willingness to act matched by a willingness to act together.

So: these are new times. New threats need new measures. The simplest act of fanaticism carried out in a state thousands of miles from us is of significance on the streets of London or in the villages of County Durham. The interdependence of the modern world has never been clearer; the need for a common response never greater; the values of freedom, justice and tolerance of our diversity never more relevant; and the need to apply them fairly across the world never more urgent.

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