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UK's Benn: No More 'War on Terror' Slogan

Martin Beckford

LONDON - Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, has risked angering George W Bush by claiming that the US President's phrase "War on Terror" strengthens extremist groups.
Mr Benn told an audience in New York that the term, coined by the White House after the 9/11 attacks, makes small, disaffected groups feel that they are part of something bigger. 0416 03

He also said that British ministers and civil servants no longer refer to the "War on Terror".

The comments could improve his standing among Labour backbenchers and boost his chances of winning the forthcoming deputy leadership contest.

Mr Benn was addressing a meeting organised by the Centre for International Co-operation.

He said: "In the UK, we do not use the phrase 'War on Terror' because we can't win by military means alone, and because this isn't us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives.

"It is the vast majority of the people in the world against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world.

"What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others without dialogue, without debate, through violence. And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength," he will add.

Mr Benn went on to say that the battle against terrorism in an "interconnected world" cannot be won by "hard power" alone.

"It will certainly win the battle, but without soft power, we cannot win the war that will deliver better governance, sustainable peace and lasting prosperity.

"The fight for the kind of world that most people want can, in the end, only be won in a different battle - a battle of values and ideas."

In 2001, nine days after the attacks of September 11, Mr Bush told Congress: "Our war on terror begins with al-Qa'eda, but it does not end there.

"It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007.

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