Blair: 'The Job Is Not Over'
London (CNSNews.com) - As a second night of air attacks on Afghanistan began, British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed an emergency session of Parliament, confirming the success of early alliance missions and repeating the determination of forces to avoid civilian casualties.
"The coalition operations were successful in achieving their objective of destroying and degrading elements of the al-Qaida terrorist facilities and the Taliban military apparatus," Blair said Monday. "In all cases, the utmost care was taken to avoid civilian casualties."
The prime minister warned of a long struggle ahead.
"We are in this for the long haul," Blair said. "Even when Al-Qaida is dealt with, the job is not over."
Blair rebutted assertions by the Taliban and terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden that the military strikes are part of a terror offensive against Islam.
"They lie about our motivation," Blair said. "We know their aim ... it is to say we are anti-Islam. That is a lie."
Earlier, Blair gave an interview to Qatar-based Al Jazeera - a television station that broadcast clips of bin Laden threatening America - and met with religious leaders at his official residence in London.
The heads of the main religious groups in Britain issued a joint statement after the meeting, read out by the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.
"This is not a confrontation, nor should it be seen as a confrontation, between religions," Carey said. "It is vital that we continue to build bridges."
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith reiterated his support for the military operations.
"Our first duty as the opposition is to support the government in this action," he said.
In his speech to Parliament, Blair also confirmed that British journalist Yvonne Ridley has been released from custody. Ridley, a reporter for the London Sunday Express, had been arrested 11 days ago and accused of spying and traveling without documentation by the Taliban. Reports said she was safe in Pakistan on Monday night.