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08 February 2007

Anti-US comments 'playing into the hands of al-Qa'eda'

medium_al_qaeda.jpg(telegraph.co.uk)  Anti-American feeling in Europe is playing into the hands of al-Qa'eda and unwittingly encouraging terrorism...

Anti-American feeling in Europe is playing into the hands of al-Qa'eda and unwittingly encouraging terrorism, Australia's foreign minister said today.


In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Alexander Downer urged European politicians to weigh the consequences of their words before they "leap out there and attack America".

Mr Downer gave warning that criticism of America's conduct in Iraq could – inadvertently – provide an incentive for terrorist attacks.

"People in the West, and not only in Europe, blame America for a suicide bomber in a market in Baghdad," he said.

"That only encourages more horrific behaviour. Every time there is an atrocity committed, it is implicitly America's fault, so why not commit some more atrocities and put even more pressure on America?"

Mr Downer added: "The al-Qa'eda leadership has said on many occasions that more than 50 per cent of the battle is a battle in the media. The more you can get media denigration of America, the more that the war against terrorism is seen to be an indictment of America, the better for those who started this war."

Speaking during a visit to London, Mr Downer, who has served as Australia's foreign minister for almost 11 years, said that European critics of Washington were not aiming to help terrorists, but this could be the unintentional consequence of their words.

"It's very rude to say these people want to help al-Qa'eda. They don't. But obviously America's enemies take comfort from continual attacks on America by America's friends," he said. "Before you leap out there and vigorously attack America, think about what you're saying and the consequences of what you're saying."

Mr Downer, 55, added that populist attacks on Washington "might play well in some political constituencies in Europe, but that's no excuse".

Australia supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, sending 500 special forces soldiers and three frigates to the Gulf. Some 500 Australian troops are now deployed in Afghanistan, where they are engaged against Taliban fighters in the southern province of Uruzgan.

Nato defence ministers met in Seville today to consider sending more soldiers to Afghanistan. General Dan McNeill, the new American commander of Nato forces in the country, asked for 2,000 more troops to join the 33,000 deployed at present.

Mr Downer urged Nato to agree to this request. He criticised countries like France who have sent forces to Afghanistan – but only on condition that their troops do not operate in the south, where the fighting against the Taliban is fiercest.

"At the end of the day, it's weakening the coalition's efforts in Afghanistan," said Mr Downer. "Think of Afghanistan as a battle that has to be won. The Taliban have to be defeated. So it's not about just symbolically sending some soldiers there."

Mr Downer added: "Nato needs to be very robust. We're now getting towards the end of the winter. When the spring comes, you will see a spring offensive from the Taliban and I think it will be pretty tough and that's going to require a lot of resolve. So we would like to see more troops."


20:25 Posted in EUROPE | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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