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Blair Wins Victory on Anti-Terror Law


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has won a key vote in the Parliament, which has approved a government-backed bill to outlaw the "glorification" of terrorism. Critics had called the law an unneeded curb on free speech.

The House of Commons has passed the bill by a vote of 315 to 277. That sends the measure back to the House of Lords, which has resisted making it a crime to "glorify" terrorism.

Ahead of the vote, the acting leader of the opposition Conservative Party, William Hague, accused Mr. Blair of political grandstanding in order to appear tough on terror with an unneeded law.

"Wouldn't it be better to have a water-tight law designed to catch the guilty than a press release law designed to catch the headlines," he asked.

Mr. Blair responded by saying opposition amendments to remove the phrase "glorification of terror" would jeopardize British security.

"If we take out the words glorification, we are sending a massive counter-productive signal. It is a word that I think members of the public readily know and understand and juries would understand. And it is to send completely the wrong signal to take it out," he said.

The House of Commons approved a Terrorism Bill in November making it a crime to glorify terrorism, but the House of Lords rejected the bill. The Lords removed the word "glorification" and inserted language that would criminalize speech that encourages people to copy terrorist acts. The amended bill was then returned to the Commons for reconsideration.

The Lords' amendment was supported in Wednesday's vote by the Conservatives and Britain's third major party, the Liberal Democrats.

Opponents of the "glorification" clause say it is vague and limits free speech. They point out that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri recently was convicted under current laws that criminalize incitement to murder and racial hatred.

Proponents say the word "glorification" is needed against those who issue images and written statements that could inspire terrorist acts, and that the Lords' amendment would apply only to the spoken word.