Blair: Britain 'At War With Terrorism'

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

London ( - British Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued his strongest statement yet in support of the use of military force to combat terrorism after Tuesday's attacks on the United States.

Blair told reporters Sunday that the United Kingdom is "at war with terrorism," echoing remarks made by President Bush earlier in the week.

The prime minister described Tuesday's attacks as "the worst terrorist attack there has been on British citizens since the Second World War."

Blair spoke from outside his official residence in London.

"Probably 200 to 300 people from Britain will have died," he said. "Whatever the technical or legal issues about a declaration of war, the fact is we are at war with terrorism. What happened on Tuesday was an attack not just on the United States, but an attack on the civilized world."

The British government has rejected Osama bin Laden's denials that he was responsible for the attacks in New York and Washington. Blair said two actions were appropriate in responding to the terrorist attacks.

"The first is to ensure we take action against those responsible for this terrorist act, and then, secondly, we have to take action against the whole machinery of mass terrorism, and that is something for the whole international community to come behind," he told the news conference.

Blair declined to say whether domestic security measures would be tightened in the wake of the attacks. Last week, Home Secretary David Blunkett said that he would consider an identity card scheme. The European Union has also stepped up talks about easing extradition procedures and creating a continent-wide arrest warrant.
Religious leaders concerned

In the face of Blair's statements Sunday, Britain's religious leaders sounded a note of caution.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, leader of Britain's Catholics, and Dr Jonathan Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, urged the U.S. to think deeply and consider the positions of its allies before acting.

"I think how that justice is brought about is the key question," the cardinal said. "It is easy to say this, but never was there a time over the past many, many years when wise counsel is needed and I think that here in Britain we are in a good position ... to give wise counsel as a very close ally of the United States."

A poll published in Britain's best selling Sunday newspaper, the News of the World, found that 74 percent of British people would back an attack on those responsible for the attacks, and 69 percent would support a strike against countries thought to harbour those responsible.