Opposition Says UK's War Aims Unclear
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2001 by the Associated Press
Opposition Says UK's War Aims Unclear
by Daniel Flynn
LONDON –– The British government is failing in its efforts to shore up support at home for the military campaign in Afghanistan, the country's opposition leader said Wednesday.

Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to communicate clear aims for the campaign and, as a result, appears "to be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the British people."

While a majority of Britons still back the war, opinion polls show a dip in support amid reports of stray U.S. bombs killing Afghan civilians.

On Tuesday, Blair exhorted Britons to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and to remain resolute in pursuit of the perpetrators.

"We won't falter," he told the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.

"We have a group of people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything that the civilized world stands for, who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill again unless stopped," he said before leaving on a trip to promote Middle East peace.

Duncan Smith has supported the government's overall conduct of the war but said mixed messages from government and military officials have led to public confusion and unease.

"Even those who have supported military action from the outset are beginning to ask what our real objectives are and whether we are going about securing them in the right way," he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"Recently it has failed to get the message across that there has to be a clear connection between a defined set of war aims and the current military action," he said.

Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corp., the opposition leader emphasized he still strongly supports Blair.

"I think the actions he's taken are correct, I think the prosecution of the war is correct, the search for (Osama) bin Laden, al Qaida is absolutely correct," he said.

Duncan Smith rejected critics of the military campaign who have called for bombing to stop so humanitarian aid can be delivered. That, he wrote, "will buy time for the government of Afghanistan, not for its people."

Blair's trip took him to Syria Tuesday and Saudi Arabia Wednesday.

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Russian officials in Moscow on joint efforts to uproot bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network and build a stable government in Afghanistan.

"Where previously the relationship (between Russia and the West) was based on a balance of power, this relationship now has to be based on a balance of trust," Straw said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. "We are on the same side now."

Ivanov said he and Straw agreed on all major issues and that any differences in policy were "technical."

However, Ivanov was noncommittal about British and U.S. efforts to push for a new sanctions regime against Iraq, saying only that he and Straw discussed the issue.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press