Britain's 'First Lady' Apologizes For Suicide Bomber Remarks

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - The wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been forced to apologize for statements that critics said may have shown sympathy with Palestinian suicide bombers.

Cherie Blair's remarks came just hours after a suicide bomber killed 19 people and injured 50 more in an attack on a Jerusalem bus.

The prime minister's wife was speaking at a charity event at the London offices of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

"As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress," she said.

The Israeli Embassy in London expressed regret that "any public statements which might be interpreted as expressing understanding for Palestinian terrorism should be made, particularly on a day on which 19 innocent Israeli lives were taken by a suicide bomber."

"No political grievance or circumstance can justify the willful targeting of civilians for political gain," the embassy said in a statement. "Nor can those who glorify and encourage such atrocities ... be absolved of their responsibility."

Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Michael Ancram also criticized Mrs. Blair.

"These words will cause massive offense to the families of schoolchildren and others whose lives were brutally and criminally ended this morning," he said. "There can never be any justification for terrorist violence, particularly of the kind we saw in Israel this morning."

Late Tuesday, Mrs. Blair said through a spokesman that she was "obviously sorry" if her remarks had caused any offense.

The spokesman said Mrs. Blair would never condone suicide bombings or say that the bombers had no choice.

"It goes without saying that she condemns the atrocity in the strongest possible terms," the spokesman said.

The prime minister came to his wife's defense and told reporters that he hoped no one "misdescribes her sentiments."

"Everybody in this situation feels nothing but the deepest sympathy for the people who have lost their lives," he said.

Blair said he was sure that his wife meant that it was important to provide hope for the future through a peace process.

"Behind those people are some very evil and unpleasant terrorist leaders who do not put their own lives on the line when they are making sure that others' lives are ended," the prime minister said.

ICC controversy

The speech was the second time in less than a week that Britain's "first lady," who is also a prominent lawyer, has courted controversy.

In a speech last Thursday, she criticized the United States for failing to ratify the treaty creating the International Criminal Court.

"With time, I hope that the U.S. will ... recognize that the concerns it has expressed, legitimate as they may now seem, are not well-founded," she said.

"It will be a lost opportunity if a state with a long-standing commitment to human rights does not take a lead in shaping the work of the world's first international criminal court," she said.

Britain has ratified the treaty creating the court, which will come into effect next month.

U.S. officials, however, have expressed fears that American citizens could be prosecuted with no guarantee of Constitutional rights.

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