Blair indicates policy shift in West's "war on terror"

Date: 11-19-06

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair has indicated that the West's approach to the "war on terror" has changed, as Pakistan's leader called for less emphasis on military action in Afghanistan.

Blair gave a broad hint Sunday that Western policy towards tackling global extremism had shifted amid anticipated changes to coalition strategy in Iraq and calls for US foes Syria and Iran to be involved in the Middle East peace process.

Asked whether the United States and its allies like Britain were winning the "war on terror", he told a news conference: "We begin to win when we start to fight properly and I think we are now fighting properly but we've got to do more."

His official spokesman told British reporters later that Blair was not criticizing a previous approach or a particular tactic.

Instead, he said Blair was referring to the "fuller appreciation" of what was required in fighting extremism as part of a "broader global issue" that included the Middle East.

Blair has previously called for a change in Western strategy on combating extremism, urging the use of "soft power" techniques like aid and economic development as much as military might.

His comments Sunday -- made after talks with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf -- suggest other allies are now coming around to that line of thinking in the face of growing sectarian violence in Iraq and Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.

Blair himself appeared to agree with a suggestion in a television interview Friday that military action in Iraq had so far been disastrous, while one of his ministers reportedly said Iraq was the prime minister's "biggest mistake" in foreign policy.

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger on Sunday told BBC television that a military victory in Iraq was no longer possible and called for countries in the region, including Iran, to intervene to end the violence.

He also said Washington and London had to "redefine the course" in Iraq because of rising sectarian violence, but warned that the situation would become worse if international troops were withdrawn.

Musharraf for his part was more forthright in calling for a multi-faceted approach against Taliban militants in south-east Afghanistan, likening the effort to the US Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe after World War Two.

"I have indicated to the prime minister that I believe there is a requirement for a massive inflow of development funds there -- some kind of Marshall Plan," he told a joint news conference.

Reconstruction and development "seem to be missing" in that region, he added, saying that the battle "cannot be won through military means alone".

But he rejected accusations that Pakistan was not doing enough to combat extremism at home or crack down on support for radical Islamist groups.

"We are doing all that we can because we are against terrorism. We are against extremism and we are against Talibanisation," he said, describing neighbouring Afghanistan's former hardline rulers as "an Afghan problem".

Resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict was a key first step in "untying the knot of terrorism", he added.

Blair later signed an agreement with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to more than double Britain's development aid to 480 million pounds (909 million dollars) over the next three years.

The bulk of the cash will go towards supporting Musharraf's policy of "enlightened moderation" in Islamic schools -- or madrassas -- that have been blamed for radicalizing Muslim youth, including visiting Britons.

Blair, who also met Muslim moderates and toured the Faisal mosque in Islamabad, said 20 million pounds would be made available immediately to tackle poverty in Pakistan.

A further eight-million-pound deal has been signed between Britain and Pakistan's interior ministries and intelligence services for counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics work.

Pakistan has been a key Western ally since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Both Blair and Musharraf agreed Sunday that their cooperation would increase "for many years to come".


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