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Together we can find Utopia, says Blair

They fall for dogmas that tell them to blame their troubles on a distant Satan

g and compass

The Telegraph

Together we can find Utopia, says Blair

By Andy McSmith, Chief Political Correspondent

(Filed: 13/11/2001)

THE idea that the world can be one community has ceased to be just a dream of Utopia since September 11 and has become a matter of self interest for Britain, Tony Blair said last night.

The terrorist attacks have shown how quickly conflict can be exported from one region to another, destroying the illusion "that we can have the good life of the West irrespective of the state of the rest of the world," he added.

The Prime Minister appealed to his wealthy audience at the Lord Mayor of London's annual banquet, in the sumptuous surroundings of the City's Guildhall, to picture the lives of jobless, embittered, and dispossessed young Arabs who are prey to the dogmas of fundamentalists.

He also stressed the importance of a settlement in Palestine, the renewal of UN arms inspections in Iraq, and held out to Syria and Iran - once condemned in the West as terrorist states - the prospect of membership of new world order.

He claimed that the crisis had shown the importance of Britain playing its "full part" in Europe rather than "retreating to the margins". Mr Blair warned that despite the advances made by the Northern Alliance in the past few days, the Taliban were not beaten and al-Qa'eda not yet "hunted down".

He repeated the call that he first made during the Kosovo conflict more than two years ago for a doctrine of "international community".

"Some say it's Utopian; others that it is dangerous to think that we can resolve all these problems by ourselves," he said.

"But the point I was making was simply that self-interest for a nation and the interests of the broader community are no longer in conflict. There are few problems from which we remain immune. In the war against terrorism the moralists and realists are partners, not antagonists."

He added: "The starting point is to make a leap of imagination from this grand hall and splendid banquet to the streets of the Arab world where bright, angry disaffected young men - by no means always from poor families, but still with neither work nor prospects - seek outlets for their feelings of betrayal and frustration.

"They fall for dogmas that tell them to blame their troubles on a distant Satan, and gives their lives meaning by committing themselves to relentless struggle."

Mr Blair called on the Palestinian Authority to take action against suspected terrorists, and Israel to withdraw from the occupied territory known as Area A, as preliminary steps towards reopening the Middle East peace process. The return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq would be a step towards ending the "Saddam-induced suffering" of its people.

He added: "We should offer Syria, Iran and other nations in the same position a new relationship if they will work with us to end violence and promote a solution that is just for both Palestinians and Israelis and if they will join the international consensus on weapons of mass destruction.

"These countries all have an interest, too, in fighting religious extremism. It is quite extraordinary that Osama bin Laden should claim over the weekend that Afghanistan is the only Islamic nation in the world. His aim is clear: to Talibanize all Islamic countries around the world."

Mr Blair also called for a new initiative to tackle conflicts in Africa and assist African economies, and for the EU to provide training and assistance to the former Soviet republics in central Asia to help them to control the storage and movement of nuclear material and dangerous chemicals.

He added: "I hope we have buried the myth that Britain has to choose between being strong in Europe or strong with the United States. Afghanistan has shown vividly how the relations reinforce each other; and that both the US and our European partners value our role with the other.

"So let us play our full part in Europe not retreat to its margins; and let us proclaim our closeness to the United States and use it to bring Europe closer to America. The solidarity of our European partners in this present crisis has been total. It will remain so; and that is a real cause for hope."

Speaking a few hours after the New York air crash Mr Blair opened his speech by offering "deep condolences and sympathy" to the victims' families.

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