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Report: No Evidence  Saddam Hussein's Overthrow  Has Reduced Security Threats For Britain - 2003-07-31

A new British parliamentary report says the country is no safer today from terrorism or weapons of mass destruction than it was before the war in Iraq.

The foreign affairs committee of the British parliament has issued a scathing assessment of the results of the war in Iraq.

In an 85-page report, the committee says there is no evidence that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has reduced the security threats facing Britain.

It says the invasion of Iraq may have actually set back the war against the al-Qaida terrorist network by enhancing the group's appeal among young Muslims in the Middle East.

It says al-Qaida continues to have large numbers of "foot soldiers" and the group has shown what the report calls "an alarming capacity to regenerate itself."

The report also says the committee cannot conclude that the threat of an attack on Britain with weapons of mass destruction has diminished because of Saddam Hussein's ouster.

The British foreign office minister for Middle Eastern issues, Bill Rammell, is rejecting the criticism. He says Saddam Hussein was a major sponsor of terrorism and his removal helps the war on terrorism.

The foreign affairs committee also is urging the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to patch up relations with European allies who opposed the Iraq war, especially France.

Mr. Blair indicated at a news conference Wednesday that progress is being made on that front.

"In a curious way, after the disagreement on Iraq, having been through that experience, all of us, there is a genuine desire not to repeat it if at all possible," he stressed.

The committee report says it is urgent that stability be restored to Iraq and Afghanistan. It says the success of peace building and reconstruction in those countries will be, in the words of the report, "of central importance to the success of the war against terrorism."