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|Wednesday, November 07, 2001, updated at 11:13(GMT+8)|
Blair: Taliban Merged With Al-QaidaBritish Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled out negotiations with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban government Tuesday, and said the regime had "virtually merged" with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.
He said Britain had no alternative but to join the US-led fight against terrorism because the September 11 attacks were "aimed at civilized values and the civilized world everywhere."
"Our information is...that effectively the Taliban regime and the al-Qaida network have virtually merged now," said Blair, according to a transcript of his interview on CNN's Larry King Live.
"Their forces are the same, probably their military structures are virtually the same. So there's no negotiating with them."
Blair said the international coalition against terrorism remained "remarkably strong" and paid tribute to President Bush for his "magnificent" handling of the crisis.
Asked during the wide-ranging interview how bin Laden and al-Qaida could be dealt with, Blair said: "Well, you defeat them. I mean, you can't negotiate with them ... We have to take action and shut the whole of that terrorist network down. I mean eliminate it, eradicate it."
Britain has been America's staunchest ally in the fight against terrorism. Since the atrocities in New York and Washington, Blair has been involved in a relentless round of global diplomacy to bolster international support for the US-led military campaign.
Blair said the anti-terror campaign must also work to bring peace to the Middle East because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was "the context for the way that much of the Arab world views this conflict."
"What people need to know is that we are determined, if we possibly can, to move the Middle East peace process forw`92.
"It is a tragedy ; 4pt is happening there ... it 4q a desperately serious situation, and it does overlay the whole of the relationship between the Arab world and the West."
Asked whether he would approve of an extension of the campaign into other countries suspected of harboring terrorists, such as Iraq, Blair said the military action was "focused on Afghanistan" on the basis of evidence. He said, however, that the action in Afghanistan was phase one of the campaign against terrorism.
"Then we deal with international terrorism in all its forms in different ways - how it's financed, how they manage to acquire weapons, how they move across borders; how they operate. And this requires, again, close consultation and deliberation with allies and then a proper plan to deal with it."
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