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Blair Urges Muslim Leaders to Root Out Extremists

Senior British politicians and Muslims leaders have met to discuss how they can work together to confront Islamic extremists in the aftermath of the recent terrorist bombings that killed 56 people in London.

About 25 members of the British Muslim community met for 90 minutes Tuesday with Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaders of the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to discuss the terrorist issue.

Following the talks, Mr. Blair said there is agreement to form a task force of Muslim leaders who can interact with disaffected youth and steer them away from those who call for violence.

"There is a strong desire to have people from the community, able to talk to the Muslim community, particularly young Muslims in their community, and confront this evil ideology, take it on, and defeat it by the force of reason and argument," he said.

One of the Muslim participants, lawmaker Shahid Malik of Mr. Blair's ruling Labor party, said his community is ready to tackle the problem.

"There is a profound challenge," said Mr. Malik. "I think everybody here is up for that challenge. I think we recognize we've got to work better at confronting those evil voices, as minute as they are, within our communities."

The Conservative party leader, Michael Howard, says the Muslim community must take the lead in combating potential terrorists in their midst.

"The one thing that came out most strongly from this meeting was the responsibility of the Muslim community for reaching out to those who have been the targets of the merchants of evil and hatred," he said.

In a related development, Mr. Blair has reiterated his call for stronger laws to deport, or bar entry to, persons who might advocate acts of terrorism.

He spoke just hours after London Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that a controversial Islamic cleric, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, has canceled plans to visit Britain next month.

Sheik al-Qaradawi has in the past approved Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel, and attacks on U.S. civilian workers in Iraq, and he is barred from entering the United States.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that three of the four suspected bombers in London visited Pakistan during the past year. Police say all four bombers were Muslims and British citizens.

And a poll published in the Guardian newspaper finds that two-thirds of respondents believe Mr. Blair's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq bears some responsibility for provoking the suicide bombings. The government rejects any such linkage.