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British Troops Ready To Help Aid Northern Alliance, Rebuild Afghanistan - 2001-11-14

Britain has put thousands of troops on standby to go to Afghanistan to stabilize the situation while a new government is formed. Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the situation in Parliament Wednesday.

Prime Minister Blair says several thousand British troops are ready to go into Afghanistan on 48 hour notice.

He said they would have various missions, such as protecting food shipments, repairing airfields and clearing unexploded bombs and mines.

Mr. Blair says the deployment would be of limited duration while a multi-national force is put together to work alongside Afghan commanders. British defense officials say no decision has been made on when deployment might begin.

In a statement on the current situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Blair said the Taleban forces are falling apart. "It is clear that support for the Taleban is evaporating. Though there may be pockets of resistance, the idea that this has been some kind of tactical retreat is just the latest Taleban lie. They are in total collapse," Mr. Blair said.

Mr. Blair also appealed for the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance to avoid revenge killings. "I have to say that regrettable incidents have happened, as the liberated people have turned on their oppressors, and they should not happen. And I appeal to the Northern Alliance and all other forces in Afghanistan to be restrained, to avoid acts of revenge and to engage with the United Nations," he said.

Mr. Blair also outlined objectives of the anti-terrorism coalition that have not been achieved yet in Afghanistan. "There remain huge challenges. The military job is not yet done. Osama bin Laden is still at large. So are his close associates. The diplomatic and political situation remains difficult. The threat of a humanitarian crisis remains," he said.

Mr. Blair also gave Parliament an updated dossier of evidence to document what Britain says are self-incriminating statements by Osama bin Laden regarding the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

It quotes from an October 20 bin Laden videotape in which he says his al-Qaida network is practicing what he called "good terror" to counter what he termed the "bad terror" of America and Israel.

Coinciding with the release of the dossier, a poll commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation finds that two-thirds of British Muslims believe Osama bin Laden's guilt has not been proven.