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Blair Calls Britain's Parliament into Session - 2001-09-12


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is recalling parliament to debate counter-terrorism measures that Britain might take in the aftermath of the suicide plane attacks in the United States. Britain is on edge as it pledges full support to help the United States track down the perpetrators.

Prime Minister Blair told a news conference Wednesday that Britain has a personal stake in the U.S. attacks, and he expects British casualties from Tuesday's attacks to be high. "It is also clear that given the likely death toll, there will be many citizens of other states who will have died," Mr. Blair said. "I have to say to you that I fear significant numbers of them will be British. So in a very real and direct sense, the interests of this country are engaged."

Given that, Mr. Blair says he is recalling parliament for an emergency session Friday to consider Britain's response. "I believe parliament should be recalled both because of the sheer magnitude of what has happened and its implications but also because this was an attack not just on a number of buildings in the United States of America, but on the very notion of democracy," he said. "It is therefore all the more important that democratic voices are heard, and in our country parliament is the right and proper place for that to happen."

Mr. Blair would not say if there is information linking the attacks to suspected Islamic terrorists. But he made a of point of praising Muslim leaders who have condemned the attacks. "As Muslim leaders and clerics around the world are making clear, such acts of infamy and cruelty are wholly contrary to the Islamic faith," the Prime Minister said. "The vast majority of Muslims are decent, upright people who share our horror at what has happened."

Mr. Blair said increased security measures at British airports and government buildings would remain in effect at least through Wednesday.

A few hours before the news conference, journalists were briefly evacuated from the street outside Number 10 Downing Street, Mr. Blair's official residence.

At about the same time, about 1,000 workers at the Bank of America headquarters in London were ordered out of the building for about for about half-an-hour. Suspicious packages were found at both places, but police determined they were harmless.

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