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Blair calls for "alliance of moderation"

posted on 20/12/2006: 735 views

The world today is facing "a battle between the forces of moderation and the forces of extremism", British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

He went on to call for an alliance of those who share the common values of reason and moderation, to work together against extremism.

Answering questions from an audience of several hundred students at the Abu Dhabi campus of Zayed University, Blair said that there "is not a clash between civilisations, but a clash about civilisation." Praising the openness and tolerance of Islam, which he described as a faith that is "extraordinarily peaceful and progressive," he noted that "the extremists who kill people through terrorist acts are not abiding by the Islamic faith, even though they claim to act in the name of religion. They represent a reaction against civilisation. But we must not let the extremists say that it is a battle between Christians and Muslims, or between Jews and Muslims. It's a battle between tolerance and extremism, and only through an alliance of moderation against the extremists can progress be made." "What is needed is for sensible, moderate, reasonable people who share the common values of tolerance, respect and a belief in equality, justice and fairness to work together," Blair said.

"There are certain common values that all reasonable people share, whatever country they come from and whatever faith they are," he added. "People can find a common basis of understanding and can then work together," he said. "This", he told the students, "is your responsibility as well as our's. There are things that we share in common that bring us together in defence of the values we share."

In response to a question about whether Britain accepted that the victory by the Hamas movement in the Palestinian elections represented a true expression of democracy, and, if so, why Britain had cut off all financial support for Hamas, general election victory, the British Prime Minister said: "we don't dispute the (electoral) mandate of Hamas," but went on to note that if they wanted support from Britain, they should adopt policies in line with what Britain itself wanted to see, including, he said, a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

There was, he said, a need for a rapid revival of international efforts to push for a satisfactory solution to the conflict.

"This is probably one of the most important strategic objectives in the world today," he said "What is needed is the active engagement of the international community ? to see how we can combine together to bring stability to the region? We should not let a day go by without working on the (peace) process," Blair added, with one of its objectives being the creation of "an independent, viable Palestinian state." Questioned about the situation in Iraq, the visiting Prime Minister said that the current violence was not caused by the presence of foreign troops, including British forces.

"It is caused by extremist groups inside the country linking up with outside extremists," he said. He went on to say that the overwhelming majority of the people of Iraq had shown their rejection of the violence and their support for a non-sectarian government by voting in the country's recent elections.

Here, as in the Israel/Palestine issue, he said, "what is important is that we support people who want moderation, an open economy, democracy and tolerance between faiths." Turning to the issue of democracy, Blair said that there "will be different paths to democracy across the Middle East," and that these would not necessarily be the same as elsewhere. "But there are shared principles," he said, "like the rule of law and the security of the people." The British Prime Minister told his audience that he had only visited the UAE once before, on a private visit to Dubai in 1976.

Since then, he said, the development of the Emirates had been "incredible." He noted, in particular, the way in which although the UAE had great reserves of oil, it had diversified its economy to ensure that it was not dependent on oil revenues.

Describing Zayed University as an example of the UAE's 'open economy', the Prime Minister said that the world of increasing globalisation poses many challenges.

"The UAE has an imaginative leadership that is determined to open up the country and to embrace the modern world," he said, adding that the UAE "has shown that it can compete and win" at an international level.

The British Prime Minister was accompanied on his visit by Minister of Economy Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, and was received by University Vice Chancellor Dr. Suleiman Jassim, who also acted as moderator in the question-and-answer session with the students. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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