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Britain Considers Tougher Anti-Terrorism Laws


British politicians are considering new laws to curb radical Islamic preaching, in a move to crack down on homegrown terrorists following the recent bombings of London's transportation system.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke is seeking consensus from the major opposition parties, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, on how to tighten Britain's anti-terrorism legislation.

The government wants parliament to approve new laws in the next few months that would ban the indirect incitement of terrorism, the glamorization of terrorism and training to carry out terrorist attacks.

Opposition to the proposals has been muted in the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings that killed more than 50 people. But earlier debates on similar issues, such as banning the incitement of religious hatred, have been contentious, provoking strong opposition from civil liberties activists.

In another development, the government has clashed with a prestigious foreign policy research group over a report that says British involvement in Iraq has made it more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The report by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, or Chatham House, says the al-Qaida terrorist network has exploited the Iraq war to expand its recruitment, and as a propaganda weapon against British and U.S. interests.

One of the authors, Paul Wilkinson of Saint Andrews University, says Britain should have stayed out of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"It is wise for the United Kingdom, as for any sovereign state, to try and retain as much control and independence over its foreign policy as possible," he said. "And being a close ally doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with every venture that is proposed."

Jack Straw
The British government rejects the assertions, as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw explained.

"I'm astonished if Chatam House is now saying that we should not have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our long-standing allies in the United States," he said. "Let me also say this: The time for excuses for terrorism are over. The terrorists have struck across the world in countries allied with the United States, backing the war in iraq, and in countries, which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq."

Meanwhile, the largest Sunni Muslim group in Britain has issued a religious edict - or fatwa - condemning the London bombings, believed to have been carried out by four British Muslim men.

The Sunni Council fatwa says the attacks were not justified, and it condemns the perpetrators.

Most of Britain's mainstream Muslim organizations have denounced the attacks, and have been consulting with police on how to root out suspected terrorists and their supporters.

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