From News 24:
London – British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under fresh pressure on Monday for supporting the war in Iraq after a respected think-tank linked the invasion to Britain’s worst terrorist attack, in which at least 55 people died.
The comments – rejected by the government – came as interior minister Charles Clarke prepared to meet his opposition counterparts to discuss planned anti-terrorism laws, and as the international hunt for clues into who planned the July 7 bombings in London forged on.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs, known as Chatham House, concluded in a report that the war in Iraq gave a “boost” to al-Qaeda and made Britain especially vulnerable to suicide attacks – a theory that clashed with Blair’s belief that there is no link with the July 7 bombings.
“There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism,” said the London-based research centre.
“It gave a boost to the al-Qaeda network’s propaganda, recruitment and fundraising,” Chatham House said, arguing that it also provided an ideal training area for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists and deflected resources that could have gone to help bring suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice.
The report, entitled “Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a High-risk Policy” heavily criticised the British government’s anti-terrorism strategy, accusing it of working shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States as a back seat passenger rather than an equal decision maker…
In Brussels, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw rejected the report’s suggestions.
“I’m astonished that Chatham House is now saying that we should not have stood shoulder to shoulder with our long-standing allies in the United States,” Straw told reporters before chairing an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.
“The time for excuses for terrorism is over,” Straw added. “The terrorists have struck across the world, in countries allied with the United States, backing the war in Iraq and in countries which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq.”
Straw said this weekend’s attack at a beach resort in Turkey also showed that terrorists “will seek any excuse” to strike. “They struck this weekend in Turkey, which was not supporting our action in Iraq,” Straw said.