Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 7 News List

British public links bombings, Iraq war

BLAMING BLAIR Most Britons think that the UK prime minister bears `a lot' of responsibility for last week's terror attacks -- for his decision to invade Iraq

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

An unidentified woman arrives at 10 Downing Street to attend a meeting between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Muslim community leaders in London yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Two-thirds of Britons believe there is a link between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq and the London bombings despite government claims to the contrary, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published yesterday.

The poll makes it clear that voters believe further attacks in Britain by suicide bombers are also inevitable, with 75 percent of those responding saying there will be more attacks.

The research suggests the government is losing the battle to persuade people that terrorist attacks on the UK have not been made more likely by the invasion of Iraq.

According to the poll, 33 percent of Britons think the prime minister bears "a lot" of responsibility for the London bombings and a further 31 percent "a little."

Only 28 percent of voters agree with the government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected.

The poll follows repeated efforts by the government to stress that al-Qaeda attacks, including Sept. 11, took place before, as well after, the invasion of Iraq.

Yesterday a government spokesman said the prime minister had told the Cabinet that people who used Iraq to justify the London bombings had "a perverse view of Islam."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed a thinktank report which argued that there was a link between the invasion of Iraq and the bombings.

The report by Chatham House, formerly the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said: "There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism."

Straw said in Brussels on Monday: "I'm astonished Chatham House is now saying that we should not have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our long-standing allies."

"The terrorists have struck across the world, in countries allied with the US, backing the war in Iraq and in countries which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq," he said.

But the Guardian/ICM poll shows the public believe that Britain's frontline role has made the country a more obvious target. And it shows that while Britons have reacted relatively calmly to the attacks earlier this month -- with 83 percent saying they were no less likely to travel into central London and 75 percent saying they were just as likely to use the tube -- the public does want the government to respond with new legislation.

A clear majority -- 71 percent -- want the government to exclude or deport from the UK foreign Muslims who incite hatred with only 22 percent believing such people should be allowed to live in the UK.

That may give some comfort to ministers as they seek to persuade opposition parties to support new laws making it an offence to incite terrorism.

But the poll also shows that despite the attacks, there is increasingly limited public support for ID cards.

Only 53 percent of those questioned said they believed ID cards should be brought in to help in the fight against terrorism -- a fall on previous findings before and after the bombings.

Reflecting the relative cross-party unity that has dominated politics since the attacks, the poll also finds that Labour's poll lead remains almost unchanged on last month's Guardian/ICM poll findings.

Despite public unease about the prime minister's decision to support the invasion of Iraq, Labour has the support of 39 percent of voters (up one point on last month), the Conservatives 31 percent (no change) and the Liberal Democrats 23 percent (no change).

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