Former Labour cabinet minister Clare Short yesterday insisted she ‘had no doubt’ the July 7th London bombings were linked to Iraq and Palestine.
Short was speaking in the wake of Blair’s claims on Saturday that this was not so.
In an interview with GMTV, Short said: ‘We are implicit in the slaughter of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and supporting a Middle East policy that for the Palestinians creates this sense of double standards – that feeds anger.’
Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, Chair of the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said it was ‘intellectually unsustainable’ to say the war in Iraq had not motivated the London bombers.
He added: ‘For as long as Britain remains in occupation of Iraq, the terrorist recruiters will have the argument they seek to attract more susceptible young recruits to the bomb team. Britain must withdraw now.’
Meanwhile, Munir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, warned yesterday that judging the bombers on their ‘racial origins’ was a ‘recipe for promoting racism and hatred’.
He stressed: ‘It is important not to pin blame on somebody else when the problem lies internally.
‘Your policies in the Middle East, your policies in the Islamic world, that is the problem with your society . . . and that is where the problem lies as far as this incident is concerned.
‘It would be a grave mistake to point fingers at Pakistan or anybody else outside your country.’
In a speech to the Labour Party National Policy Forum on Saturday, Blair had tried to deny any link between the bombing and imperialist aggression in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He claimed that the London bombings were the result of ‘an evil ideology’ which ‘we must pull up by its roots’.
Meanwhile, Short also expressed concerns about planned new legislation announced by Home Office Minister Hazel Blears, including a new offence of ‘indirect incitement of terrorism’.
Short said if anti-incitement laws were not carefully drafted, Mrs Blair could face prosecution over her remarks of three years ago – that she could understand young Palestinians felt they had ‘no hope’ but to blow themselves up.
Short said: ‘The problem is going to be in finding the right words and implementing it in a way which is really dealing with people who are inciting and not preventing honest discussion of the underlying causes of this horrendous political situation the world is in now.’
Announcing plans for ‘indirect incitement to commit terrorist acts’ legislation, Blears said this law could include ‘people who seek to glorify terrorist acts, perhaps by saying: “Isn’t it marvellous this has happened, these people are martyrs”.’
She added that such comments could be seen as ‘endorsement of terrorism’.
Ahead of today’s consultations between Home Secretary Clarke, Tory leader Howard and Liberal Democrats leader Kennedy, Blears also announced new offences of committing ‘acts preparatory to terrorism’, and of ‘providing or receiving terrorist training’ in the UK or abroad.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Interior Minister has refuted as ‘groundless’ and based on a hasty conclusion, British press reports linking Egyptian-born biochemistry graduate Magdi Mahmoud al-Nashar to Al Qaeda.
Interior Minister Habib al-Adli told Al-Jumhuriyah newspaper that al-Nashar, who was arrested by Egyptian security forces last week, was on holiday in Cairo and has no connection with the al-Qaeda organisation.
He also denied British security services had participated in al-Nashar’s interrogation.
Back in the UK, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer yesterday tried to play down reports that MI5 officials had opened a file on one of the suspected London suicide bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, last year but decided he was not a sufficient threat to be put under surveillance after carrying out routine checks.
Falconer said: ‘We have got to learn the lessons and that is why we are bringing forward these new laws. Now is not the time for any form of inquiry.’
CHARGES LAID AGAINST SADDAM HUSSEIN
The head of the puppet Iraqi special tribunal told a news conference in Baghdad yesterday that the first charges had been laid against captured Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Judge Raed Jouhi said Saddam had been charged along with three others in connection with the killing of Shia Muslims in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad, in 1982.
Jouhi added that court proceedings against Saddam and the others could begin within days. He did not say when the charges had been made.
The other defendants are Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam’s half-brother and former head of Iraq’s intelligence service; Taha Yasin Ramadan, a former deputy prime minister; and Awad Hamad al-Bander, former chief judge of Saddam’s Revolutionary Court.
Meanwhile, puppet Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has begun the first top-level visit to Iran since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Jaafari lived in Iran in exile for a number of years during the war.
More than ten ministers from the Iraqi puppet government are accompanying Jafaari to open what the Iranian media has called a new chapter in ties.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said: ‘Everything is ready for bilateral co-operation with Iraq and we are ready to sign a security agreement during the visit.’
He indicated that one of these issues is the continued presence of the armed Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahideen in Iraq.