November 29, 2001
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Row over next phase of anti-terror campaign

Sanjay Suri in London

A diplomatic row has broken out over the next phase of the war on terrorism.

The British government is backing moves in Washington to target a next set of countries where the Al Qaeda network is reported to be active, but there is disagreement on which countries these should be.

British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told a select committee on defence at the House of Commons on Wednesday that Britain is considering supporting an "invasive military response" in states where the government is too weak to take action against terrorists.

The countries being considered are reported to include Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

"We are well aware that the Al Qaeda has tentacles in a considerable number of jurisdictions, including this one," Hoon said. "The response may well depend on the most appropriate way of dealing with that threat."

"I think across the spectrum there are different means that may be appropriate according to the places the Al Qaeda and similar organisations operate. In a state that has very little control within its own borders, a degree of invasive military response may be appropriate."

The British and the US governments are reported to be considering what they call "stiletto type action" by special forces rather than bombing. But the disagreement comes over proposals by a strong lobby in Washington to target Iraq as well.

Most European Union governments are opposed to a move that could target Iraq next. But Prime Minister Tony Blair has taken a different line.

President George W Bush in a Newsweek interview this week said the US will "fight terror wherever it exists". The statement was coupled with a warning to Iraq President Saddam Hussein to admit United Nations inspectors to check its installations to make sure it is not building nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

As to what the consequences might be if Hussein refused, Bush said: "He'll find out."

France, Germany and several Arab leaders have expressed opposition to attacking Iraq or other Arab countries. Blair, however, said he "totally agreed" with Bush.

He said following Bush's remarks: "I have always said there would be two phases of this operation. The first is in Afghanistan."

"The second is, in a deliberative and considered way, to take what action we can against international terrorism in all its forms."

There were signs of division within the British government as well.

Hoon told the committee that he had not seen any evidence linking Iraq "directly" with the Al Qaeda. Nor did he give any indication what the other targets will be.

Hoon's reluctance to name Iraq is in line with a group in Washington led by Secretary of State Colin Powell

Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is leading a growing demand within Washington for the US to target Iraq next.

Indo-Asian News Service

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
The Attack on US Cities: The Complete Coverage

The Terrorism Weblog: Latest Stories from Around the World

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