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Straw plays down terrorism warning over Iraq war
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Tuesday refuted suggestions that the UK would have been immune for terrorism if the Iraq war had not happened, saying that Britain was a target before the 2003 invasion.
"We were in any event a target, and so was the rest of the world, for this extremist terrorism before Iraq," Straw told the BBC in his first interview since returning from holiday.
Last weekend, it was revealed that the Foreign Office's top civil servant, Sir Michael Jay, warned that the Iraq war was fuelling UK Muslim extremism back in May 2004, over a year before last month's London bombings.
But Straw insisted that it was extremists that were using the war as an "excuse" for recruitment and did not mean the UK would have been safer without the Iraq war.
In his warning, Jay said a "recurring theme" among the underlying causes of extremism in the Muslim community was "the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the middle east peace process and Iraq."
"British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims," the top civil servant said.
The opposition Conservative's shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox criticized the government's handling of the problem as being "inept from start to finish".
"What I find surprising is that the government denies there is any link when most people, with common sense, would say there is some link that makes it easier to recruit extremists from the Muslim community," Fox told BBC News.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell suggested that Jay's warning was an indication that the reasons for the terrorist attacks were "very complex."
"It's not simply a question of competing ideologies as the prime minister would argue," said Campbell, who opposed the Iraq war with the rest of his party.
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