Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 12, 2001
First of all, I would like to give you an update on this mornings meeting
of the Civil Contingencies Committee. We have agreed to keep in place the additional
security measures that I announced yesterday, at least for the rest of the day.
This is a purely precautionary measure but wise in the circumstances, and I
hope those who are suffering the disruption understand why we believe this to
be necessary. Most of the City and business throughout the country is functioning
We also discussed what practical help and expertise we can offer to America
in dealing with the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. I will chair a further
meeting of this Committee later today and in addition, there will be a special
meeting of the Cabinet tomorrow. Also, I should tell you that the Government
has requested that Parliament be recalled and The Speaker has agreed to this.
I have consulted the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal
Democrats, and other parties, and propose that Parliament be recalled for this
Friday, 14 September, when I will make a statement to the House, and the Foreign
Secretary will then open a full debate on the issues that arise from yesterdays
I believe Parliament should be recalled both because of the sheer magnitude
of the event, and its implications, but also because this was an attack not
just on a number of buildings, but on the very notion of democracy. It is therefore
all the more important that democratic voices are heard and in our country,
Parliament is the place for that to happen.
I have also spoken to several world leaders, including the Presidents of France
and Russia, Chancellor Schroeder, and Prime Minister Verhofstadt in his capacity
as the current President of the EU.
We all agreed that this attack is an attack not only on America but on the world,
which demands our complete and united condemnation, our determination to bring
those responsible to justice and our support for the American people at this
time of trial.
It is also clear that given the likely death toll, there will be many citizens
of other states who will have died. I have to say that I fear significant numbers
of them will be British. So in a very real and direct sense, the interests of
our country are engaged.
But even if that were not so, the world now knows the full evil and capability
of international terrorism which menaces the whole of the democratic world.
The terrorists responsible have no sense of humanity, of mercy, or of justice.
To commit acts of this nature requires a fanaticism and wickedness that is beyond
our normal contemplation. The USA will be considering the action it considers
appropriate against those found to be responsible. But beyond that, there are
issues connected with such terrorism that the international community as a whole
must consider: where these groups are, how they operate, how they are financed,
how they are supported, and how they are stopped.
One final point. I was pleased to see the very strong statement of condemnation
from the British Muslim Council, echoing that of the American Muslim Council.
As Muslim leaders and clerics around the world are making clear, such acts of
infamy and cruelty are wholly contrary to the Islamic faith. The vast majority
of Muslims are decent, upright people who share our horror at what has happened.
People of all faiths and all democratic political persuasions have a common
cause: to identify this machinery of terror and to dismantle it as swiftly as
possible. With our American friends, and other allies around the world, this
is the task to which we now turn."
The Prime Minister also answered several questions from journalists after his
QUESTION: This is maybe one of those questions, Prime Minister, you cant
answer but there have been official and semi-official comments from the United
States about Osama Bin Ladens group being the likely culprit for this.
What is the British view of that and do we have any intelligence view about
where these attacks have come from?
ANSWER: I wont comment on the identification of who is responsible at
this stage but obviously this is something that is under close consideration
by our agencies here as well as other agencies round the world and particularly
those in the United States of America. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, to what extent and I know you dont want
to be specific but are there no limits to which you would co-operate
with the United States government in pursuing the terrorist and, given the possibility,
the real possibility that Britain could become a target if you either endorse
or insist on reprisals, to what extent do you think the British public is prepared
ANSWER: As I said a moment or two ago Mike, I dont think it is wise to
speculate on what the nature of any American response would be to this act of
terror or indeed what support they may call upon from this country or any other
countries in making that response. But I want to make one thing very clear indeed
- this was not an attack on America alone. This was an attack on the free and
democratic world everywhere and this is the responsibility that the free and
democratic world have got to shoulder together with America. And at this time
of tragedy in the United States of America that has consequences right across
the world and as I say there will be British people that have lost their
lives in this time of tragedy and this time of grief and anger and trial
in America it is important that Americans know that their allies and their friends
around the world do stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Yes, John.
QUESTION: But Prime Minister just continuing this point, can you say how important
it is for whatever the American response, whatever that is, for that to be supported
by Americans key allies and in particular by Britain?
ANSWER: Well Im not, you know forgive me if I repeat to you what I said
earlier. I am not going to enter into a discussion of what that response may
be or any participation of anyone else in it. I simply repeat what Ive
said already to you that I think it is important that we demonstrate our support
for the United States of America at this moment. Yes, Kristiana.
QUESTION: Analysts, leaders, people have been saying, and you yourself just
said, this is not just an attack on America but on the civilised world. Are
you prepared to say that this is a stage of war, a declaration of war against
the United States and the civilised world? And, even though you dont want
to be specific, you yourself said that we have to "defeat and eradicate
these people." What possible way can you do that and do you envision a
sort of 1990s style coalition that might be built in like-minded countries
to confront these people once evidence comes to establish certain responsibility?
ANSWER: Well of one thing Ive no doubt and that this was an attack upon
the whole of the world and that is why I think it is so important that in addition
to whatever action America considers appropriate that the world as a whole is
prepared to act. And I sketched out to you a moment or two ago I think some
of the questions that we need to pose. It is too early, it is premature to give
specific answers to those questions but this was an act of terrorism on a scale
I dont think anyone had contemplated before and it shows the new menace
that there is that threatens our world. And it is important therefore that the
international community, as a whole as well as responding to this particular
atrocity, considers the nature of these groups, how they are financed, how they
operate and how we defeat them. And I am sure from the discussions that I have
had with other leaders in the past few hours that those questions are at the
forefront of their mind as well because we all of us know that America may have
been singled out by these terrorists but their attack is aimed at all of us
and it is therefore vitally important that we stand together in defeating them.
QUESTION: Noting what you said about Britains Muslims, it is nonetheless
the case isnt it that this international terrorism over the past decade
has had a common thread of Islamic Fundamentalism and isnt it rather inadequate
to try and address this problem by treating it as evil terrorism and isolation
and looking at the functionalities of where the money comes from without looking
at the basic clash of ideologies and indeed the basic concept of what human
rights and the value of human life is?
ANSWER: Of course it is evil terrorism and we shouldnt disguise that for
a moment but I think you are right in saying that we also have to make it clear
and this is done best indeed by voices within the Muslim community and the Islamic
faith that such acts of wickedness and terrorism are wholly contrary to the
proper principles of the Islamic faith. And one of the reasons I mentioned the
statement of the Muslim Council of Britain was in order to underscore the shock
and the sense of horror and sense of outrage felt by the vast majority of Muslims
round the world. So this is not a situation in which we should see this as a
cause between the Muslim faith and the world but between terrorism and the rest
of the world, including the Muslim faith.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, beyond the appalling loss of life and injury, one
thing is very clear that there has been an appalling breakdown of intelligence
in America in particular and in the West in general. The same breakdown in intelligence
has delivered the wrong targets in previous reprisals. Will you, before you
put at the disposal of the United States any British facility or armed forces,
require independent intelligence assessments to be made of any evaluation that
the United States might make as to what should be done?
ANSWER: Well Jon, if you forgive me going to enter into any discussion of what
may happen in the coming period of time, simply to say that the United States
of America will be considering who is responsible and they will take the action
that they consider appropriate. And as I said earlier, what support we may give
to that is something that we will consider at an appropriate time. But be under
no doubt at all we stand with the United States of America in this matter. Yes,
QUESTION: Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary made it clear this morning that
things will never be the same again and that many of the freedoms we have taken
for granted until now will have to be reassessed. Could you give us any idea
of what the Committee has considered in those terms, at least as far as Britain
is concerned? Have you thought about things for instance like identification
cards or a reassessment of immigration policy or our attitude to the Convention
on Human Rights or Northern Ireland or any of those things? Can you make some
comment on that?
ANSWER: I cant make any detailed comment on that at this present moment
in time Trevor but I think it is clear that we obviously have to consider what
the security implications are and what additional measures need to be taken,
not just by our country but by other countries round the world, measures either
in order to protect our own security or alternatively of course measures that
allow us to deal more adequately and better with the terrorist threat. But I
very much would want those measures to be part of a process that means that
we are defending the basic rights and freedoms and those freedoms are essential
to our democracy. So of course we will consider these things and we will be
in a position to give a more detailed response to that in due course. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you feel by standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States
and saying we are determined to eradicate this threat we are ourselves a possible
ANSWER: I dont think theres any doubt at all that this threat is
aimed at the whole of the democratic world. The United States has been singled
out but there is no doubt at all that these terrorists will regard us all as
targets and therefore it is important for us, whilst this has happened in the
United States of America, to remember that very basic fact this is an
attack on the free and democratic world as a whole. And of course, as I was
pointing out to you just a moment or two ago, because of the sheer scale of
the death toll and the carnage as a result of this atrocity, there will be many
British people that have been caught up in it. So our interests are engaged
in a very real and direct way. Now, if youll forgive me, I dont
think I will take any more questions at this stage but we will continue to keep
you fully informed of all developments. Thank you.
Crown copyright material reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.