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Blair Addresses Parliament on War Effort


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the United States and Britain are giving additional help to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance in its war with the ruling Taleban there. Mr. Blair spoke about the war in parliament on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Blair says the U.S. led air strikes have inflicted considerable damage to military and terrorist targets in Afghanistan.

"We have now significantly damaged the Taleban's military capability, including fast jets, transports, helicopters, inflicted very severe damage on their command and control facilities, early warning, air defense systems, radars, surface to air missile sites," he said. "And we've inflicted heavy damage as well on the terrorist network and terrorist training camps of the al-Qaida."

The prime minister hinted that war tactics could change soon, and for the first time he confirmed that the opposition Northern Alliance is getting U.S. and British support.

"We are in the process of establishing the ability to take further military action against both the Taleban regime and the al-Qaida network," Mr. Blair said. "And we're also giving additional help to the Northern Alliance in their efforts against the Taleban."

Mr. Blair rejected appeals from non-government aid agencies that the bombing be suspended so more food can be shipped into Afghanistan.

He said United Nations food convoys are entering Afghanistan despite the difficulties, and he accused the Taleban of taxing and stealing food shipments.

Mr. Blair said he had just discussed the problem with President Bush. "In the conversation I just had with President Bush a few moments ago, we both agreed that the humanitarian aspect of this mission is as important as the military, indeed the two are linked," he said. "And it is important that we do everything we possibly can to remove any obstacles there and to get the aid in." The British charity Oxfam has led the calls for a suspension of bombing, saying food convoy drivers are afraid to enter Afghanistan now that stray U.S. bombs have hit a Red Cross warehouse and a U.N. office.

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