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March 01, 2003
Blair seeks to limit Muslim backlash against Iraq war
Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold last-minute talks with Muslim leaders in a damage-limitations exercise against the overwhelming opinion opposed to a pre-emptive war against Iraq.
The Muslim News has exclusively learned that Blair is to meet Muslim leaders next week similar to the talks he held with them ahead of the launch of military action in Afghanistan on 27 September 2001.
The Muslim Council of Britain warned in a letter to the Prime Minister in January that a US-war against Iraq would provoke a backlash to the UK’s relations with the Islamic countries. Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie said the MCB was “loath to contemplate what this would do to Britain’s economic and bilateral relations with the Muslim world.” Military action “would certainly unravel whatever little had been achieved” in the Middle East after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw admitted British responsibility for creating the conflict in the region, notably in Palestine.
The task facing Blair was underlined in a poll carried out last month by The Muslim News which found that over 90 per cent of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslim community were opposed to a war against against Iraq even if the US and UK obtain a fresh mandate from the UN Security Council., according to the interim results of a running internet poll by the Muslim News. Only six per cent of Muslim News readers saying that they would support the use of military action even if it was endorsed by a second UN resolution.
“The chances of persuading Muslims is virtually nil when the Prime Minister is even unable to convince half of his backbench MPs that there is a case for military action,” editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, said. “Mr. Blair has continually switched his justifications for a war but has not even been able to present any arguments on moral grounds, especially given the British government's previous support for Saddam Hussein and the double standards it has shown in relation to the Palestinian issue,” he said.
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