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Blair: International Community Must Unite, Act to Defeat Terrorism

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 – The struggle in Iraq is a genuine pursuit of liberty, and the international community needs to recognize its importance and unite to advance the cause of freedom, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a speech at Georgetown University here today.

"This should be a moment of reconciliation not only in Iraq but in the international community," Blair said. "The war split the world; the struggle of Iraqis for democracy should unite it."

Many people may not agree with the original decision to go to war in Iraq or may think mistakes have been made, but no one can deny that the Iraqis are strong people who believe in their country and believe in democracy, Blair said.

"They want Iraq to be democratic. They want its people to be free. They want to tolerate difference and celebrate diversity. They want the rule of law, not violence, to determine their fate," he said.

Blair visited Iraq this week and said the trip strengthened his determination to help the new government succeed. Blair said he was particularly moved during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"He leant across to me and said: 'If we can change Iraq, we can change this region and the world,'" Blair said.

The terrorism that affects Iraq is the same that affects the rest of the world, Blair said. Its roots are in a combination of secular dictatorship and religious extremism, and its purpose is to disrupt the democratic process, he said.

Violence should not be a reason for coalition forces to leave, he said. "How can we possibly, in the face of such a struggle so critical to our own values, not see it through and do so with renewed vigor and confidence?" Blair said. "If Iraqis can show their faith in democracy by voting for it, shouldn't we show ours by supporting them in it?"

The Iraqi government will need coalition support as its leaders move forward, Blair said. Iraqi and coalition leaders agree that coalition forces should leave Iraq as soon as possible, but that withdrawal will be based on the ability of Iraqi forces, he said.

"No one I spoke to, from whatever quarter, wanted us to leave precipitately," he said. "An arbitrary timetable without conditions being right would be seen for what it would be: weakness."

The answer to terrorism is the universal application of global values, Blair said, and the international community must be proactively engaged to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"We must fashion an international community that both embodies and acts in pursuit of global values: liberty, democracy, tolerance, justice," he said. "These are the values we believe in. These are the values universally accepted across all nations, faiths and races, though not by all elements within them. These are values that can inspire and unify."

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