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Blair issues plea for 'global alliance'

AP | March 27 2006

Tony Blair today made an impassioned plea while speaking to Australian politicians for an international alliance to protect "global values" of fairness, justice and freedom.

The UK Prime Minister pledged to keep British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until those countries were stabilised.

"If the going is tough, we tough it out," Blair told a rare joint sitting of Australia's Parliament in Canberra.

Blair told Australian politicians that the "immediate threat was from Islamist extremism," which he said was "not a passing spasm of anger, but a global ideology at war with us and our way of life."

"If we want to secure our way of life, there is no alternative but to fight for it," he said. "That means standing up for our values not just in our own countries but the world over."

Britain and Australia were the only two nations to send troops to fight alongside US forces in the invasion of Iraq three years ago and both countries still have forces in the country and in Afghanistan fighting Taliban and al Qaida insurgents.

In a key foreign policy speech, Blair said the struggle was not just against "those who hate us," but also against opponents who believe Britain and its allies fight for their values selectively.

"This struggle is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity," he said. "And in truth today there is no prosperity without security and no security without justice. That is the consequence of an interconnected world."

He pointed to recent elections in both Iraq and Afghanistan as symbols of the values he was advocating and said those countries were "engaged in a titanic struggle to be free of a legacy of oppression, stagnation and servitude."

Blair also strongly defended the United States' role in the struggle, saying the alliance he was describing "does not end with, but does begin with America."

He said that having Washington as an ally could sometimes be difficult, but said the US administration was key to victory.
"The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved, the danger is that they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved, we want them engaged," he said. "The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them."

In a wide-ranging speech, Blair also cited global poverty and the threat of climate change as other pressing issues facing the world.

Blair noted that while Britain supported the Kyoto protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Australia had not.

Protection of European agriculture markets was "a policy born of another age and it's time to end it," he said.

But change in Europe alone would not go far enough.

"America must open up, Japan too and ... we look to leadership from Brazil, India," Blair said.

"And we must agree (on) a development package for the poorest that includes 100 percent market access and aid for trade," he added.

In an interview earlier, Blair declined to say how long British troops might remain in Iraq.

"What's happening now in Iraq is that the Iraqi security forces and the army are building up their capability and as that happens, we can draw down," Blair said.

"Will we be able to make substantial troop reductions? ... In my view, that is possible provided of course that the Iraqi capability has been built up and sustained," he said.

Blair arrived in Australia late on Saturday on the first stop of a three-nation tour that is expected to focus on global terrorism and the war in Iraq. His first stop was the Commonwealth Games in the southern city of Melbourne to experience venues and atmosphere ahead of London's hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games.

After his appointments at Parliament, Blair laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

 

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