Blair issues Taliban ultimatum
October 2, 2001
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Afghanistan's leaders have been warned that they face imminent military action for not surrendering Osama bin Laden.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the Taliban: "We will put a trap around the regime. Its choice is surrender bin Laden or surrender power."
Bin Laden is wanted by the U.S. as the suspected mastermind of the hijack attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and crashed another plane in Pennsylvania.
Blair was addressing his Labour party's annual conference in Brighton, southern England, but his words were directed as much to Afghanistan and the U.S. as the party faithful.
He said the U.S.-inspired war against terrorists and those that harbour them had only one outcome -- "our victory not theirs" -- hammering home the message that Afghanistan's refusal to hand over bin Laden would not go unpunished.
Blair put the Taliban in his sights, warning that its infrastructure and military would be targets in the campaign against bin Laden.
And he also addressed Americans watching the speech on TV saying: "We were with you at the first, we will stay with you till the last."
He said: "No one can ever justify the events of September 11 and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could.
"The action we take will be proportionate and targeted and we will do all we can to avoid civilian casualties but understand what we are dealing with."
He warned that strikes would "eliminate (the Taliban's) hardware, disrupt their supplies, target their troops."
Turning to those who planned and executed the hijack attacks, Blair said: "There is no compromise with such people. Our choice is to defeat them or be defeated by them -- and defeat them we must."
He went on to say that the September 11 strikes were a turning point in history from which good could emerge from the "shadow of evil."
"Our way of life is a great deal stronger and will last a great deal longer than the actions of fanatics who are small in number and now face a unified world against them," he said.
Bin Laden has also been suspected of being involved in the killing of one of the Taliban's most feared enemies by two suicide attackers posing as TV journalists just two days before the hijack attacks.
Blair called the assassination of the military leader of the Northern Alliance -- which is fighting against Taliban rule -- a payment in the "currency of blood."
On Monday, U.S. President George W. Bush said the campaign and coalition against terrorism was making progress, declaring, "Our military is ready * they will make us proud."
Bush said more than 29,000 military personnel, two aircraft carrier battle groups, hundreds of aircraft and an amphibious-ready group have been deployed to undisclosed destinations as the U.S. prepares to respond to the deadliest act of terrorism in the nation's history.
Also in the region are 24 British Royal Navy warships and 23,000 troops that have been sent to Oman for a long-planned military exercise.
The Bush administration has also begun providing its allies documentation it says is evidence linking bin Laden and his al Qaeda network to the September 11 attacks.
Bush has not said which country will bear the brunt of the retaliatory attacks, but has vowed to go after terrorists and any country that harbors them.
He has indicated that bin Laden is the prime suspect in the attacks.
Bin Laden has been living as a "guest" in Afghanistan and on Sunday the Taliban admitted he was still in the country and under their control.
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