BLAIR - Backs Afghan electionsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
BBC Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK Blair backs Afghan elections UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has strongly hinted that democratic elections should be held in Afghanistan once the current military action is over.
Mr Blair, who has already pledged not to "walk away" from Afghanistan at the end of the immediate crisis, made the comments as a third night of US-led strikes began over the south Asian country.
The prime minister - whose war cabinet met for the first time on Tuesday - said the outside world could not impose its wishes on Afghanistan but it could "facilitate the expression of the will of the people of Afghanistan about their own future".
Earlier, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said no decision had yet been taken about starting a ground forces campaign in the country but he confirmed it was an option.
On Monday British armed forces gave logistical support to the US during the second night of air strikes on targets in Afghanistan, but were not directly involved.
As those strikes began, the prime minister outlined in a statement to Parliament his desire for a "better more stable future under a broad-based government involving all the ethnic groupings" to be formed in Afghanistan.
In a BBC World Service interview on Tuesday, he said: "We are now making this commitment to them (the people of Afghanistan) that this conflict will not be the end.
"We will do everything we can during the conflict to minimise the suffering of people.
"But once the conflict is over, we have then got to sit down with the people in Afghanistan and try and work out a stable and coherent plan for the future.
"We are not going to walk away again. We made that mistake in the past."
Mr Blair refused to comment on reports, now confirmed, that four Afghan civilians working for a UN-backed mine clearance organisation in Kabul were killed in those strikes.
"I don't know about the case about the UN workers," he said.
He continued: "There may be explanations for it and what I do urge people to realise is that right at the outset there will be all kinds of claims and counter claims made and we'll do what we can to disentangle truth from fact."
The prime minister again stressed the coalition was doing "everything humanly possible" to avoid civilian casualties.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defence said the battle for control of the skies over Afghanistan was being won.
But officials insist it is still too early to assess the damage on the ground from two nights of strikes.
In other developments:
Oxfam announced the first UK charity aid flight to Afghan refugees will leave from RAF Manston on Wednesday afternoon.
Foreign Office minister Ben Bradshaw says Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network "probably" have some chemical and biological weapons.
Emergency services delegates gathered for a conference in Colchester on how to deal with chemical and biological contamination.
It is understood that Mr Blair discussed the full range of military, diplomatic and humanitarian measures with his new war cabinet on Tuesday morning.
One minister absent from the meeting was Mr Hoon because he was in Moscow for talks about military co-operation with his counterpart Sergei Ivanov.
Speaking after the talks, Mr Hoon said no decision had yet been taken on starting a ground forces campaign in Afghanistan.
Ground campaign option
"As far as any ground operations are concerned, clearly we are preparing plans to allow us to look at that as an option.
"But they are options. We have taken no decision on a ground campaign. We have only just started the very first part of the military campaign."
Defence officials said the second wave of attacks on Monday were aimed at the Taleban's military airfields, tanks and fighters.
They came 24 hours after UK and US air strikes targeted 30 command posts and bases in Afghanistan.
-- Anonymous, October 09, 2001