- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

CARDIFF, Wales British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday there is now "a flood" of evidence proving Osama bin Laden was guilty of the September 11 atrocities and tackled growing criticism of the bombing campaign against Afghanistan.
Speaking to the Welsh National Assembly in Cardiff, Mr. Blair said: "I said a few days ago that now would be the testing time. People want results. They want them as fast as possible.
"They realize the formidable challenges posed by any action in Afghanistan. They worry about civilian casualties. They are anxious about the refugee crisis as winter approaches. They wonder what comes after the conflict.
"All these concerns deserve to be answered. No one who raises doubts is an appeaser or a faint-heart. We are a democracy, strong enough to have doubts raised even at a time of war and wise enough to be able to respond to them."
But the prime minister went on to recall the events of September 11 saying: "Thousands of people were killed in cold blood in the worst terrorist attacks the world has ever seen."
Mr. Blair went on: "Those responsible were the al Qaeda network reared by Osama bin Laden. That is a fact barely disputed by anyone any more. Incidentally, the intelligence evidence, significant when I first drew attention to it on October 3, is now a flood, confirming guilt."
But he promised: "We won't falter. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan protect al Qaeda and help them. That is a fact. Indeed, according to the latest evidence we have, they are virtually a merged organization. The Taliban regime are cruel, dictatorial and oppressive, causing 4.5 million refugees to be on the move even before September 11."
Mr. Blair said there is now "a group of people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything the civilized world stands for who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill again unless stopped."
"They have one hope: That we are decadent, that we lack the moral fiber or will or courage to take them on; that we might begin but we won't finish; that we will start, then falter; that when the first setbacks occur, we will lose our nerve. They are wrong. We won't falter."
Mr. Blair repeated the coalition aims: "The means we use will be air power, ground operations as and when necessary, support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban regime elements and building up a strong political and diplomatic coalition against the present Taliban regime."
He said action so far had met with much success but added: "Two words of caution this is not a conventional conflict. It is not a battle for territory as such or for the subjugation of Afghanistan. It is a battle to allow Afghans themselves to retake control of their country.
"We simply cannot and should not disclose the exact nature of the ground operations we intend to undertake, but there is a limit to what we can sensibly discuss in public."
Mr. Blair paid tribute to the Arab and Muslim countries who have supported the international coalition, but he stressed: "Every part of this is difficult. Every part requires courage, conviction, hard work. In every part, there may be setbacks from time to time. But in every part, we have justice and right on our side, and a strategy to deliver."
The prime minister stressed it was important "we never forget why we are doing it."

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