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Year 2001 No. 180, October 23, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Jack Straw’s Support for Bombing and Assassination

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Jack Straw’s Support for Bombing and Assassination

Making a Difference

The Role of the Media in the "War against Terrorism"

Anti-War MPs Oppose Minister’s Insults

Early Day Motion 240 on Afghanistan

Update on the "war against terrorism":
British Ground Troops Ready to Invade Afghanistan
Uzbekistan Refuses US Permission to Launch Attacks
Iraq Again Repulses British and US Warplanes

Civil Liberties:
Proposed Retrospective Legislation Would Breach Human Rights Act
"Observatory" to Monitor Post September 11 Laws

Looking to the Future

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Jack Straw’s Support for Bombing and Assassination

Jack Straw on Sunday claimed that the bombing campaign against Afghanistan must go on. The Foreign Secretary argued that stopping the bombing campaign to help aid agencies would prolong the suffering of Afghans.

He added that the new government must be run by Afghans with the support of the global community. It is revealing that Jack Straw conceives the possibility that the government of Afghanistan should be run by anyone else but the Afghani people, but just as revealing that he asserts it must have the support and backing of outside forces.

Speaking at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, in one of the most far-reaching and arrogant apologies for big-power interference in other countries affairs, Jack Straw said Afghanistan is a "failed state" which provided a haven for "warlords and criminals". He said civil wars in failed states were rarely internal affairs and the "misery" experienced by those in such countries is "exported to every corner of the world". As such the international community needed to end the civil war in Afghanistan, end the Taleban regime and start aiding the country's reconstruction, he said. It may be considered strange that Jack Straw did not draw the appropriate conclusion that outside interference must be ended so that the conditions for such civil wars are eliminated.

The Foreign Secretary pointed to Sierra Leone as an example of a "failed state" the government had helped. Again, Jack Straw did not mention the role of British colonialism in bringing about the tragedies in Sierra Leone and the sordid intervention which has contributed to the "failure" of that state and its civil war.

The Foreign Secretary said the rebuilding of Afghanistan must be in the hands of the Afghan people, but the United Nations must take the lead. He said that the process would also require a long-term commitment from the international community.

Supporting the politics of assassination, the Foreign Secretary told Channel 4 News that the campaign against Afghanistan might involve the killing of leading Taleban and al-Qaida figures. On being asked whether the government was prepared to go along with American moves to assassinate such people, Jack Straw said that it was inevitable.

The Foreign Secretary said: "We go along with the idea that we are involved in military conflict and that may involve the killing of a number of people who are leaders in the Taleban and the Al Qaida organisation."

It was put to the Foreign Secretary that previously he had criticised the Israelis for assassinating Palestinian opponents. Jack Straw said: "These are very, very different circumstances. We are involved in a military confrontation, backed by the United Nations Security Council, which expressed its readiness to take all necessary steps to deal with this threat of terrorism. Very, very clear ultimatums were given by President Bush to the Taleban to deliver up Osama bin Laden and the other leaders of the Al Qaida organisation. They could have done so, they could now be before courts of law in the United States." The question of the place of such ultimatums, of presenting options which the relevant forces clearly cannot accept and then making them suffer the consequences of rejection, was not dealt with in the interview as reported.

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Making a Difference

The ruling circles have the state apparatus and the monopoly-controlled media at their disposal in prosecuting the "war against terrorism" and backing it up with justifications.

Nevertheless, the answer to the question of whether the working class and the people’s forces can make a difference is a definite yes. For the communists, the assets at their disposal are the Modern Communist Party and the working class and all its allies. The Modern Communist Party is giving the opposition to the war its bearings, and is also intervening at its level in the politics of opposing the Anglo-US "war on terrorism", with the full force of its Mass Party Press behind this intervention. The workers’ and people’s movements are persisting in their initiatives and are in sentiment absolutely opposed to aggression, war and state terrorism, despite attempts to get the movements to conciliate with the Anglo-American values which are driving the "war on terrorism". To organise within the opposition to the "war on terrorism" is essential, particularly to oppose the conciliation with Anglo-American values and to counter all the justifications put forward by Tony Blair and to lift the pressure off all those who are being exhorted that a moral response to the terrorist actions lies in taking up one or another specific road. The people can affirm their humanity without feeling they are compromising the struggle against terrorism in so doing. To do so will make a difference to the outcome of present world events.

The working class and the people’s forces can and must continue to set their own agendas, not by ignoring the events of September 11 and the aggression being carried out against Afghanistan, but by differentiating these agendas from those of the government and intensifying their struggles by aiming them against the source of both terrorism and war. In other words, they must also place on the agenda how to renovate society nationally and internationally.

In these circumstances, the state is seeking to step up its criminalisation of dissent, carried out under the signboard of "tolerance", but "tolerance" which only stretches so far, seeks to draw a line of demarcation in the arena of political protest. It is also stepping up its lies and rationalisations of its criminal acts, criminal in the strict sense that they accord with all definitions of crimes against humanity.

But the confidence the people’s movement is gaining by joining together, irrespective of ideologies, in discussing, becoming informed and taking action against the "war on terrorism" is very powerful. To link this confidence with building a movement for fundamental political change will make the biggest difference of all. By fundamental political change is meant a change whereby informed, enlightened, non-cynical decision making is carried out by the people, who respect the rule of law, who respect humanity, who are determined to bring about a world where peace and security are the norm, where authority for political power rests truly on the popular will.

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The Role of the Media in the "War against Terrorism"

Commentary from a WDIE journalist

That a growing nation-wide and international movement has developed to oppose the United States led aggression against Afghanistan is not a fact to be discovered by reviewing all forms of media since September 11. Neither that the war’s pretext – the alleged complicity of Osama bin Laden in the terrorist attack and the refusal of the Afghanistan government to release him without evidence – does not justify the violation of international law. Similarly the consequences of the "War on Terrorism" – militarisation of the economy, unveiling and strengthening of repressive legislation, incitement of racism, anti-Muslim violence, intensified economic crisis together with violation of the rights of all – remain uncovered.

Instead the issue is presented as the action of Islamic militants and fundamentalists; that the documents alleging bin Laden's guilt are presented as fact rather than conjecture and as such require the government and people of Afghanistan to be attacked militarily; similarly that people accept curtailment of their liberties in order to counter the terrorist threat. These are the way these issues are addressed in the media.

Guaranteeing that people are confused and accept the rationalisations for the United States led military aggression against Afghanistan and support it – this is one aspect of the government’s practical measures to justify participation in the "war on terrorism". It was summed up recently by 10 Downing Street imploring news organisations to censor video footage of representatives of the Al-Qaida organisation originally broadcast on the Al-Jazeera Cable News Network. The reason given was that secret coded messages are provided to international sleeping terrorist cells. Another view could be that the orchestrated propaganda war is ineffective. The broadest range of international opinion refutes the explanations given for the bombing of Afghanistan. It has the sentiment of opposing the violation of accepted norms of international relations; and understands that collective punishment and targeting of the weak by the strong is the action of a fascist.

With a wealth of experience in news management, propaganda, disinformation, distortion and underhand techniques to present yellow journalism as news, or justifications as analysis, the need for a media that reports international events as well as political, social, cultural and economic affairs accurately and without bias is vital. In this way the mass media – print, visual or audio – becomes a useful tool in assisting people shape their conclusions on the basis of objective and accurate presentation of the facts. The technique of the big lie, of manipulation and misrepresentation is inimical to informed opinion. The Gulf War of 1991, the assault on Yugoslavia in 1999, the targeting and harassment of Iraq over the past decade have all been the terrain on which the news management has been perfected by the monopoly-controlled media and the major news organisations. Still the imperialist forces, led by Britain and the United States, cannot impose their dictate on the world. With the principles of the free market having transformed news into a commodity, the news organisations of the monopolies appear unable to restrain their need to achieve pre-eminence in the marketplace by presenting news as superficially a way as possible. They are not beyond reporting the bombing of Afghanistan salaciously and in a sensationalised manner. In so doing the barriers before the "consumers" of this news are even more impenetrable. The truth becomes vulgarised.

What is presented as investigative journalism is very often character assassination or prejudicial presentation of events. It purports to analyse events but does so from the perspective of the uncritically accepted mainstream stance and view put forward by the government. News or news journalism should let the facts speak for themselves. Analysis of the news that is accurate uncovers what the facts show, presenting all the facts of an issue. It should be presented as such so as not to confuse news with opinion and commentary. This allows the reader to arrive at the conclusions necessary without having their ability to interpret information distorted by ideological or political prejudices.

Semantic flip-overs on "Taleban atrocities", "civilian casualties" "smart bombs", "military targets", "precision bombs", "alleged deaths of civilians", "unverified reports of civilian deaths", Anthrax scares – all obscure the smokescreen behind which terrible crimes against the civilian population of Afghanistan are being carried out. None address that this assault could be the precursor to a US project to dominate Central Asia and Asia.

There is opposition to this however. Indymedia website reported on October 17 that a group of protesters targeted the BBC’s Oxford Road Studios in Manchester, hoisting a flag proclaiming "Blair’s Broadcasting Corruption" from the building’s flagpoles. There have been other calls to oppose the media bias in favour of the status quo, disinformation and selective reporting. It is reported that Media Workers against the War are to stage a demonstration at the BBC on October 23.

Another view also emerged from the Latin American and Caribbean Journalists Congress held in Havana, Cuba between October 8-11. The congress affirmed amongst other things their recognition that media monopolies are playing a determining role in imposing militaristic politics through mass propaganda based on disinformation, censure and self-censorship as well as manipulation and silence – in order to strengthen one way of thinking. Also affirmed was the commitment of the Latin American and Caribbean journalists to defend people’s right to truthful information on which critical awareness can be formed. Especially during these times.

Regrettably the alliance of big business, monopoly controlled media and the "coalition" governments seem unlikely to heed this widespread sentiment for accurate news. The received wisdom intrinsic to the editorial policies of each of the national newspapers, broadsheet or tabloid, and of the major news organisations endorses the stand of Tony Blair and New Labour. As with the suspension of party politics sanctioned by Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith’s decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with Tony Blair – as Blair assumes the same position with the United States government – so the mass media, visual, print and audio have subordinated critical thinking to support the "war on terrorism".

The need for a mass media that is just that – one that addresses and reports on the concerns of the people – is especially important at times such as these. For people to seek truth from the facts, to have all of the evidence and information presented clearly and without prejudice, will serve the anti-war and peace movement and the movement for a new society as well.

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Anti-War MPs Oppose Minister’s Insults

Accusations from Labour ministers and whips that anti-war backbench MPs are comparable with Nazi appeasers have been treated as insults by the dissenting MPs.

Armed forces minister Adam Ingram said on Sunday that Labour MPs opposed to the bombing in Afghanistan were "moving towards" the position of those who appeased the Nazi regime in the 1930s and suggested that the dissidents were giving "succour and support" to terrorism.

His comments followed an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper by Paul Marsden, MP for Shrewsbury, one of six Labour MPs who have signed a parliamentary motion calling for a halt to the military strikes, which revealed that a reprimand had been given by Labour's chief whip, Hilary Armstrong. According to reports, Hilary Armstrong also privately told dissident backbenchers they were comparable to Nazi appeasers.

The transcript of the meeting showed that the chief whip advised Paul Marsden that every Labour MP had a duty to support the government's line on the Afghanistan campaign – without criticism. "War is not a matter of conscience. Abortion and embryo research are matters of conscience, but not wars," the account stated.

Paul Marsden claimed that Hilary Armstrong told him: "We don't have spin doctors in Number 10 or anywhere else" and then told him: "It was people like you who appeased Hitler in 1938." The chief whip is understood to have arranged meetings with all six MPs who signed the motion calling for a halt to the military strikes.

Tam Dalyell, the Father of the House of Commons, who opposes the Anglo-US military intervention, responded by threatening to vote against the government. The Linlithgow MP said he was so shocked at the threat that he was now prepared to vote against the government for the first time in 21 years. Tam Dalyell said that as an ex-serviceman he was especially shocked by Adam Ingram's decision to use Nazi analogies.

"I am one of the few remaining MPs to have spent any time in the national service, and I find his remarks highly objectionable," Tam Dalyell said. "I have spoken to Anne McGuire, the Scottish Whip, and told her that if the Tories' debate on Jo Moore is close next week then I am prepared to vote against the government."

"The last time I voted against the Labour government was in 1979 – and that was the devolution debate," he said. "I do not want anything from them now; they have nothing to offer me. I need not do what they say."

George Galloway, the Glasgow Kelvin MP and another critic of the war, was called in to meet Hilary Armstrong on Monday. "She may demand that I stop speaking out on the world. I hope she does not make such demands because the answer would have to be no," he said before the meeting.

It is being pointed out that Downing Street is utilising the "war against terrorism" to attempt to suppress dissent in its own ranks. Downing Street has also attracted criticism by asking journalists not to report anthrax scares which have disrupted the House of Commons and national railway stations in recent weeks.

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Early Day Motion 240 on Afghanistan

The following is the text of the parliamentary motion tabled on October 15, 2001, in the name of Paul Marsden

That this House notes the UN warning of a humanitarian crisis of 'stunning proportions' unfolding in Afghanistan which will leave over five million people, the vast majority women and children, with a 'fragile grip on survival' this winter; believes that the grief and suffering of innocent victims in the USA cannot be answered by the bombing and starvation of equally innocent victims in Afghanistan; recognises that the bombing of Afghanistan has resulted in tens of thousands more people fleeing their homes, has handed a daily propaganda victory to terrorists and has caused substantial civilian deaths and injuries; agrees with Mary Robinson, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, that 'it is very hard to get convoys of food in when there is a military campaign'; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to halt the bombing and urge the United States to do likewise.

The motion was also signed by Alan Simpson, Robert Marshall-Andrews, Alice Mahon, Tam Dalyell and Lynne Jones. It has since been signed also by Kelvin Hopkins, Adam Price, Simon Thomas, Hywel Williams, Julie Morgan, Jeremy Corbyn, Neil Gerrard, Harold Best, Elfyn Llwyd, Ronnie Campbell, John McDonell and George Galloway.

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British Ground Troops Ready to Invade Afghanistan

British troops are reported to be ready for action in Afghanistan, including the first ground assaults of the conflict, following intensified US operations at the weekend.

Tony Blair was reported to be discussing plans for the deployment of British soldiers alongside US troops. Special forces from the SAS are almost certainly already engaged in the "covert operations" against the Taleban. "Detailed discussions" have taken place with the US administration over the involvement of British troops of the Parachute Regiment or the Royal Marines in "overt operations".

Once this is done, what then does Anglo-American imperialism plan? Air Force and Navy commanders who flew into Oman for operation Swift Sword are reported to be working out how to sustain military action in the "war against terrorism" for years to come. It is not specified how this squares with the Foreign Secretary’s remarks about civil war and assisting a new government in Afghanistan.

Operation Swift Sword is Britain's biggest military exercise since the 1982 Falklands War. It had been four years in the planning, and has brought more than 20,000 British troops to the Arabian peninsula just as British and US forces launched the aggression against Afghanistan. This "war game" now looks increasingly like a dress rehearsal for the real war.

Rear Admiral Alan West, Commander-in-Chief of the fleet, said that he is drawing up a range of options for Britain's continuing involvement in the war against terrorism. He said: "I have taken the Prime Minister at his word that it will go on for years, because I think it will. I have looked at how to maintain levels of commitment for years."

Air Chief Marshal Sir John Dey, Commander-in-Chief of RAF Strike Command, added: "We are into the long haul, but it will depend on what the UK Government decides it wants to do as its contribution." Sir John Dey said: "I don't think we can win a war by air power because ...We have to put people on the ground. What air power can do is prepare the conditions for people to go in on the ground." He added: "As military Commanders in Chief, our task is to outline the options that our individual forces can provide, then it's up to the ministry of defence and the Government to decide which of those options will be used."

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Uzbekistan Refuses US Permission to Launch Attacks

It is reported that Uzbekistan officials have said that they will not allow US troops to launch attacks in Afghanistan directly from its soil. US troops are ready to move into Afghanistan once the Northern Alliance captures a strategic town. More than 1,000 US troops are ready for deployment after moving into Termez, near Uzbekistan's border with Afghanistan.

A US embassy source in Tashkent told news agencies that they are waiting to move once the Northern Alliance captures Mazar-i-Sharif, a large town some 30 miles south of the border.

In an interview with the RIA-Novosti agency, the Uzbek president's press secretary Rustam Jumayev said that in the struggle against the "plague of the 21st century", Uzbekistan had made its airspace available to the US Air Force and allowed US transport planes and helicopters to land at one military base. But Rustam Jumayev said: "No permission has been granted for air strikes to be launched from Uzbek territory, nor for ground operations to be conducted against Afghanistan from this country. This is our position regarding participation in the fight against international terrorism."

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Iraq Again Repulses British and US Warplanes

Iraq said it fired surface-to-air missiles on Sunday against British and US warplanes flying over the north of the country, forcing them to take flight.

"Enemy aircraft carrying out military missions over the provinces of Dohuk, Erbil and Ninive fled back to their bases in Turkey under anti-aircraft artillery and missile fire," the Iraqi News Agency quoted an army spokesman as saying.

On Saturday, Iraq also said it had fired on British and US fighter jets flying over the south of the country.

Such incidents against US and British fighter planes which have been patrolling the illegal "no-fly zones" in the north and south of Iraq since the Gulf War of 1991 have become practically daily occurrences.

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Proposed Retrospective Legislation Would Breach Human Rights Act

The proposed legislation to jail hoaxers for up to seven years would be in violation of the Human Rights Act, it has been pointed out.

The government has indicated that that legislation would be retrospective to deal with the issue of so-called "bio-terrorism", and those that make hoax claims. However, this would involve a law taking effect before it has been debated in the House of Commons. This would be in breach of article seven of the Human Rights Act which states: "No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time it was committed."

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"Observatory" to Monitor Post September 11 Laws

The organisation Statewatch has launched "Observatory". The website aims to monitor new laws and practices affecting civil liberties and rights after September 11 in Britain, the EU and the US.

The organisation points out that in the wake of the attacks in the US on September 11, governments in Britain, the EU and the US are planning a number of measures to protect against future terrorist attacks. Some of these measures are directed specifically against such attacks, but some of the measures are not and would, if implemented, affect the fundamental rights of the people living in these democracies. This "Observatory", it says, will be tracking proposed measures by providing both analysis and documentation so that civil society can find out what is being planned and make its views known.

The "Observatory" covers all new EU measures with full-text documentation and analysis plus reports from the US, Britain and other European countries.

The "Observatory" also carries in-depth reports on:

No 1: EU "Conclusions" on counter-terrorism
No 2: Creation of the EU "security state" (forthcoming)
No 3: The European arrest warrant proposal
No 4: EU definition of terrorism
No 5: "The enemy within": plans to put protestors under surveillance

The "Observatory" is on: http://www.statewatch.org/observatory2.htm

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Looking to the Future

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams gave an address at Conway Mill, Belfast, on Monday, October 22, under the above title.

In it, he said that the current crisis in the peace process has for many been a source of great frustration, annoyance and anger. Nationalists and republicans see the potential of the peace process being frittered away by a British government not honouring its commitments, and a unionist leadership obstructing the fundamental change that is required.

Unionists tell us, he said, that they are prepared to share power with nationalists and republicans. They argue that they see the issue of IRA arms as crucial to this. For this reason David Trimble says he has triggered this latest crisis.

Gerry Adams said that the British government's suspension of the institutions, its remilitarisation of many republican communities, its emasculation of the policing issue, and the premature movement by others towards this inadequate position, along with the loyalist campaigns have all created difficulties which are coming to a head.

Sinn Fein's commitment to the process is absolute, he said. The initiatives we have taken, the initiatives we have encouraged others to take, including the IRA, have contributed decisively to the peace process. Our focus in recent times has been on seeking a resolution to this crisis. Our aim has been to save the Good Friday Agreement.

As you are all aware, he said, your party leadership has been involved in intense negotiations with the Irish and British governments and with the leadership of the UUP.

"I recently travelled to South Africa and spoke to former President Nelson Mandela and later to the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki and others, about this crisis. I have spoken to President Mbeki again today. Martin McGuinness has also been in discussions with President Bush's Special Ambassador Richard Haas. Martin is today in the USA in dialogue with political representatives there and with Irish America," Gerry Adams said.

Gerry Adams went on to say that is clear to the Sinn Fein leadership that the issue of IRA weapons has been used as an excuse to undermine the peace process as well as the Good Friday Agreement. At the same time, he did not underestimate the emotiveness and confusions which arise at different phases in struggle and in particular the effects of media and propaganda spins. This is particularly so on the weapons issue.

Many republicans are angry at the unrelenting focus on silent IRA weapons, the Sinn Fein president said. This is in marked contrast to the attitude to loyalist weapons and bombs in daily use, and the remilitarisation by the British Army of republican heartlands in the north.

The issue of all arms must be resolved, he said, but not just IRA weapons – British weapons as well. This is a necessary part of any conflict resolution process.

Gerry Adams pointed out that he and Martin McGuinness have also held discussions with the IRA and put to the IRA the view that if it could make a groundbreaking move on the arms issue that this could save the peace process from collapse and transform the situation.

However, he said, I do not underestimate the difficulties this involves for the Army. Genuine republicans will have concerns about such a move. It is to them that I address this section of my remarks.

The Sinn Fein president said, "The naysayers, the armchair generals and the begrudgers, and the enemies of Irish republicanism and of the peace process, will present a positive IRA move in disparaging terms. That is only to be expected. Others will say that the IRA has acted under pressure. But everyone else knows that the IRA is not an organisation that bows to pressure or which moves on British or unionist terms. IRA volunteers have a view of themselves and a vision of the Ireland they want to be part of. This is what will shape their attitude to this issue."

Gerry Adams said that now was a good but challenging period for Irish republicanism. Republican activists had been the heartbeat of the struggle for justice and freedom.

In his view, he said, the IRA is genuinely committed to building a peace process in which the objectives of Irish republicanism can be argued and advanced.

He said, "The Army has repeatedly demonstrated leadership and patience and vision and I respect absolutely its right to make its own decision on this issue. I would appeal to republicans to stay united. I would particularly appeal to IRA Volunteers and their families, and to the IRA support base, to stay together in comradeship. This is the time for commitment to the republican cause. It is a time for clear heads and brave hearts. The IRA must stand out as an example of a people’s army, in touch with the people, responsive to their needs and enjoying their genuine allegiance and support."

Gerry Adams went on to say that Sinn Fein's strategy commits and compels it to be part of the effort to establish a fair and just society for all the people of the island of Ireland.

He emphasised that Irish republicans hold that the British connection is the source of all our political ills. The British government has inflicted and continues to sustain historic wrongs upon the people of this island and even today there are elements within the British establishment which are against the peace process. There are elements which are against the changes that are necessary if new relationships are to be built within Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. There is a responsibility, he said, upon the British Prime Minister to right the wrongs and to be part of building a new future.

The Sinn Fein president wound up by saying that if the IRA takes yet another initiative on the arms issue then the British government needs to build upon the dynamic created by that. The British political leadership has to show by deeds, not just words, that they also want to take the gun out of Irish politics and that they accept the imperative of politics and the imperative of peace making.

The Irish government too, he said, is a party to the Good Friday Agreement, and it has a particular mandate and a responsibility to promote and defend Irish national and democratic interests, and to uphold the rights of all citizens and the sovereignty of the nation. These fundamental positions are above and beyond party politics.

Gerry Adams said: "My appeal therefore at this crucial time, at this defining moment, is to all of the pro-Agreement parties and the two governments to work together to ensure that we put crisis politics behind us. It will not be easy but this it what has to be done.

"It would be easier for all of us to dwell on the past but it is also futile. It is harder and more difficult to build a new future. But that is what we are collectively mandated to do.

"We are in a time when world events are dominated by imagery and stories of conflict and violence and terror. At this time these events are replicated locally in provocative and deadly sectarian actions, both in the intimidation of little schoolgirls and in bomb and gun attacks on nationalist families. This then is the time for all of us do everything in our power to make our peace process a success, for the benefit of all our own people, for a decent and just and democratic future and as a beacon of hope for people everywhere."

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