SCMP Friday, October 5, 2001

Blair says no doubt bin Laden behind US attacks


Updated at 6.28pm:
Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday there was no doubt Osama bin Laden and his international network were behind the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Speaking to a special session of Parliament, Mr Blair said British lawmakers would be given documents directly implicating bin Laden in the September 11 attacks and other incidents. Mr Blair said there was other evidence ''of a more direct nature'' which it was not possible to disclose for security reasons.
''We have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network were responsible for the attacks on September 11,'' he told the hushed session.
The prime minister indicated military action was likely, but gave no indication when it would happen.
''We are now approaching the difficult time when action is taken. It will be difficult, there are no easy options,'' he said.
Mr Blair said of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks on New York and Washington at least three had been positively identified as ''known associates'' of bin Laden. One had played a key role in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and last year's attack on the US warship Cole.
He said bin Laden's involvement was clear in a series of attacks on US targets in recent years.
''For myself and all the other government ministers who have studied the full information, we have absolutely no doubt that bin Laden and his network are responsible for the attacks on September 11,'' he said.
Mr Blair said every effort must be made to bring bin Laden to justice and vowed that would be achieved.
He repeated his earlier warnings to Afghanistan's Taliban regime that it must hand over bin Laden and dismantle his camps in that country or become the enemy of the coalition being formed against terrorism.
''The Taliban must yield them up or become our enemy also,'' he said.
Mr Blair warned that all Western nations faced the threat of terrorist attack and must unite to form a common defence.
''We will not act for revenge. We will act because for the protection of our people and our way of life, including confidence in our economy, we need to eliminate the threat bin Laden and his terrorism represent,'' he said.
Mr Blair confirmed that he would fly to Moscow later on Thursday to meet President Vladimir Putin, as part of the diplomatic effort to solidify a coalition against terrorism.