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Britain Offers Security Assistance to Palestinian Authority - 2002-05-08

Britain is offering the Palestinian Authority security assistance to help end suicide bombing attacks on Israel following a blast that killed 17 Israeli civilians late Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Parliament Wednesday his government is ready to work with the Palestinian Authority to improve security. "The most immediate task is to make sure we have in place proper security measures within the Palestinian Authority that allows Israel some confidence that if they start to talk, they are not to carry on suffering these appalling outrages for which there can be absolutely no justification whatever," Mr. Blair said.

He said peace in the Middle East must not be held hostage by suicide bombers. "We cannot have a situation where every time it seems as if there is some hope of political progress, then that progress is immediately derailed by a terrorist attack," Mr. Blair said.

Prime Minister Blair said the whole world is watching the events in the Middle East with great concern. "There are innocent Israeli civilians dying in very large number, and there are innocent Palestinian civilians dying as well. And it is a tragedy that is now pretty much a catastrophe not just for that region, but for the world," he said.

Britain's opposition leader, Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservative Party, joined Mr. Blair in condemning the latest attack. He also agreed that security for Israeli civilians must be an immediate priority.