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March 22, 1999

Ashdown honest and transparent

Of the three Party leaders, Paddy Ashdown of the Liberal Democrats has always come out as being the most sympathetic to Muslim concerns and he has always been honest in acknowledging the under-representation of Muslims in the position of power says this week's The Muslim News. He admitted this in a wide ranging interview with The Muslim News, Ashdown said one of the two "most significant areas of failure in my eleven years of leadership…was the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the House of Commons".

On Kosova, Ashdown says the Kosovars should accept anything they can get. If they want the international community in Kosova then "the only way to do that is by signing a peace deal, any peace deal", he said.

However, the editorial asks, why should Kosovar Muslims accept peace without justice? "Looking at what is happening to the Palestinians, it can be argued they are worse off now than they were before the Oslo Agreement was signed. There also, it was peace at any price, but without justice," argues the editorial.

Paddy Ashdown emphasised the need for international troops in Kosova to protect the civilians. "A peace settlement must be guaranteed with troops on the ground…to prevent Milosovic from repeating the past".

On other international issues, Lib Dems are not very different from the other parties. But, says the editorial, "at least Ashdown acknowledges that double standards do exist". He says one should not consider the double standards as being due to discrimination (against Muslims) but that the world community "works on the basis of power". Even though Ashdown admits Israel refuses to abide by the UN resolutions, he disagrees that Israel should be treated in the same manner as Iraq. This is because the international community "treats dictatorship that is brutal, kills its own people, massively affronts human rights and civil liberties, in a different way than it treats democracy, however defective". The editorial disagrees saying that Israel is illegally occupying a sovereign state and has been involved in massacres of civilians and had in the past deliberately created over a quarter of a million refugees in southern Lebanon and therefore should not be treated differently from Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.

Liberal Democrats support the outlawing of religious discrimination and religiously motivated attacks and they brought an amendment in the Crime and Disorder Bill last year to include religion. Ashdown is against the current legislation that does not allow an unemployed person to bring over his/her spouse from another country. "We think it is discriminatory to say to someone 'you are too poor to love someone'."

Full text of the interview is available on request. Ahmed Versi, the editor of The Muslim News, conducted the interview on 16 February. The interview, which lasted 45 minutes, was held in his offices in the House of Commons and will be published on 26 March issue of The Muslim News.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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