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British Parliament Holds Emergency Session - 2001-09-14

The British parliament has met in emergency session. It gave Prime Minister Tony Blair its backing in his pledge to help the United States bring to justice the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks this week.

Prime Minister Blair told parliament there must be a tough and coordinated international response to the suicide plane hijackings.

He said the attacks may have occurred in America, but Britain has a personal stake in the matter, since hundreds of British citizens are feared killed. "Murder of British people in New York is no different in nature from their murder here in the heart of Britain itself," he said. "In the most direct sense, therefore, we have not merely an interest, but an obligation, to bring those responsible to account."

Mr. Blair used his speech to caution against reprisals against Muslims in the aftermath of the attacks. "Mr. Speaker, we do not yet know the exact origin of this evil, but if as appears likely, it is so-called Islamic fundamentalists, we know that they do not speak or act for the vast majority of decent, law-abiding Muslims throughout this world," he said.

The prime minister received the support of the newly elected leader of Britain's opposition Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith. He said the fight against terrorism is not a partisan matter. "The people of the United Kingdom, who have themselves stood firmly against terrorism for so many years, will at this time expect nothing less from us that to rise above party politics," he said.

Parliament interrupted the session for three-minutes of silence, part of a Europe-wide commemoration for the victims.

Across the continent, traffic halted, workers stopped their tasks and broadcast stations went silent in a gesture of solidarity with the American people.