Text of Tony Blair's speech

 

This is the full text of Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech at Downing Street tonight:

As you all know from the announcement by President Bush, military action against targets inside Afghanistan have begun.

I can confirm that UK forces are engaged in this action.

Tony Blair
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair flanked by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott states to the press that British forces are involved in strikes against Afghanistan

They and their families are of course carrying an immense burden at this moment and will be feeling deep anxiety, as will the British people, but we can take great pride in their courage, their sense of duty, and the esteem with which they are held throughout the world.

No country lightly commits forces to military action and the inevitable risks involved.

We made clear following the attacks upon the US on September 11 that we would take action once it was clear who was responsible. There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the mind of anyone who has been through all the available evidence, including intelligence material, that these attacks were carried out by the al Qaida network headed by Osama bin Laden.

Equally it is clear that they are harboured and supported by the Taliban regime inside Afghanistan.

It is now almost a month since the atrocity occurred. It is more than two weeks since an ultimatum was delivered to the Taliban to yield up the terrorists or face the consequences.

It is clear beyond doubt that the Taliban will not do this. They were given the choice of siding with justice, or siding with terror. They chose terror.

There are three parts, all equally important, to the operation in which we are engaged military, diplomatic and humanitarian.

The military action we are taking will be targeted against places we know to be involved in the al Qaida network of terror or against the military apparatus of the Taliban.

The military plan has been put together mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties.

I cannot disclose how long this wave of action will last. But we will act with reason and resolve.

We have set the objective to pursue those responsible for the attacks, to eradicate bin Laden's network of terrorism and to take action against the Taliban regime that is sponsoring him.

After the precise British involvement, I can confirm that last Wednesday the US government made a specific request that a number of UK military assets be used in the operation which has now begun, and that I gave the authority for these assets to be deployed.

They include the base at Diego Garcia, reconnaissance and other aircraft and missile-firing submarines. The missile-firing submarines are in use tonight. The air assets will be available for use in the coming days.

The US are obviously providing the bulk of the force required and leading the operation. But this is an international effort. As well as the UK, France, Germany, Australia and Canada have also committed themselves to take part in it.

On the diplomatic and political fronts, in the time I have been Prime Minister, I cannot recall a situation that has commanded so quickly such a powerful coalition of support - not just from those countries directly involved in military action but from many others in all parts of the world.

That coalition has strengthened not weakened in the 26 days since the atrocity occurred. This is no small measure due to the statesmanship of President Bush.

The world understands that whilst of course there are dangers in acting as we are, the dangers of inaction are far, far greater - the threat of further such outrages, the threats to our economies, the threat to the stability of the world.