Pakistan has accused Britain of being a “breeding ground for terrorists”, in a diplomatic clash about the root causes of theJuly 7 attacks on London that could hinder efforts to co-ordinate an international response.
The warning that Britain should not “externalise” the reasons it has home-grown suicide bombers comes as Tony Blair mulls legislative and other measures. The prime minister will on Monday meet representatives of Muslim communities, with leaders of the other main parties.
Mr Blair will use this meeting, and a briefing on Thursday from police and security services, to decide the “pace and content” of a response to the attacks, a Downing Street official said.
The prime minister faces a challenge to his claim that the attacks are not linked to UK support for the US in the Iraq war. The Royal Institute of International Affairs, a think tank, says in a report published on Monday there is “no doubt” Iraq has imposed “particular difficulties” for the UK’s counter-terrorism efforts.
Questions about how much the intelligence services knew about the threat, and when, also intensified.
Whitehall sources confirmed that MI5 had made an intelligence assessment of one of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, in 2004 but decided he was not a “security risk”. His name was one of hundreds assessed by MI5 after eight British-born men of Pakistani origin were arrested in March 2004 near where half a tonne of explosive was found.
Britain is anxious to enlist Pakistan’s help to curb Muslim extremism in the UK. One of the four London suicide bombers three of whom were of Pakistani descent is thought to have visited an Islamic religious school in Pakistan before the bombings, in which at least 55 people died. Jack Straw, foreign secretary, last week expressed concern about the activities of some madrassah schools.
But a senior diplomat told Britain it would be a “mistake to point fingers at Pakistan or anybody else outside your country”. Munir Akram, Islamabad’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the BBC Britain needed to “look at what you are doing to the Muslim community and why [it] is not integrating into British society”.
He said Pakistan had its terror problems but added: “Britain is now a breeding ground for terrorists too.”
The government rejected reports that Charles Clarke, home secretary, plans controls on mosques as part of the anti-terror bill he will discuss with his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts on Monday.
But Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, said on Sunday that the introduction of any legislation could be accelerated with cross-party agreement. © Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2005