War on Saddam could be boost for al-Qa´eda, MPs warn (TELEGRAPH UK) By George Jones and Auslan Cramb 12/20/02)
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A war with Iraq could destabilise the Islamic world and boost
recruitment to al-Qa´eda and other terrorist groups, according to an
influential committee of MPs.
The Commons foreign affairs select committee said yesterday that
while Saddam Hussein could not be allowed to continue to defy the
United Nations, Britain and America should not underestimate the
impact of war on Arab public opinion.
Despite vigorous international efforts to disrupt Osama bin Laden´s
terrorist network, and even before any conflict with Iraq, al-Qa´eda
continued to pose a "grave threat" to Britain and its interests
around the world.
In its report, the committee expressed concern that Jack Straw, the
Foreign Secretary, appeared "surprisingly unconcerned" about the
potential repercussions of an American-led military action against
"We do not share Mr Straw´s confidence that, in the event of military
action against Iraq, the US and UK would be able to justify such
action to the satisfaction of the ´Arab street´.
"The Foreign Secretary has presented a case for robust action to
enforce Iraqi disarmament which seems reasonable enough to many
British citizens, but which will likely appear less so to disaffected
young people in Egypt, Yemen or Saudi Arabia - especially if, as is
likely, images of Iraqi civilian casualties are broadcast by the al-
Jazeera television station and other pan-Arab news services.
"We recommend that the Government treat seriously the possibility
that a war with Iraq could trigger instability in the Arab and
Islamic world, and could increase the pool of recruits for al-Qa´eda
and associated terrorist organisations there and in western Europe."
The committee said it had been warned of a "real danger" of street
fighting in Iraqi cities and the likelihood of heavy casualties in
the event of war with Iraq.
By concentrating troops in the cities, Iraq could force America and
its allies to attack major centres of population. Such a tactic could
significantly increase the risk of both civilian and American or
British military casualties. In the event of an American-led attack
on Iraq in which British forces participated, there was a more
immediate threat to Britain´s interests than boosting al-Qa´eda
recruitment, the MPs said.
There was "compelling" evidence of Iraq´s retention and continued
development of weapons of mass destruction, and failure to address
that threat could pose "very high risks" to British interests in the
In Scotland, Jack McConnell warned that the risk from terrorist
activity remained high and asked people to exercise vigilance.
However, the First Minister said there was no need for panic as the
arrest of seven suspected terrorists showed that police and security
forces were protecting the public north and south of the border.
The seven men of North African origin, three detained in Edinburgh
and four in London, were questioned by detectives yesterday at a high-
security police station in the Govan area of Glasgow.
The arrests, following early morning raids on four flats, were the
first in Scotland under the Terrorism Act since the September 11
attacks last year.Mr McConnell said: "All the indications are that
although there are no specific threats to Scotland, the level of risk
from terrorist activities is high. People should exercise normal
vigilance in their day-to-day lives."
Lothian and Borders Police said the men could be held for up to 48
hours, after which a superintendent who was independent of the
inquiry would have to apply to extend their detention for up to five
days. (© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002. 12/20/02)
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