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Blair facing two-front attack on Iraq, Afghanistan policies

BRITAIN: British Prime Minister Tony Blair's military policies were attacked on two fronts Sunday as a leaked memo linked them with terrorism at home and his favourite general called the Afghanistan war "cuckoo."

Leaked cabinet documents published in The Sunday Telegraph apparently acknowledge that Britain's troop deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan have fueled terrorism in Britain.

Presented to a cabinet committee on security earlier this month and circulated among ministers and security chiefs, the papers say that actions overseas must in future be designed to reduce the threat of terrorism.

Their contents undermine Blair's denials that Britain's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan trigger terrorist attacks against Britain. Four British Muslim suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 London commuters in July last year.

The documents say demand a "significant reduction in the number and intensity of the regional conflicts that fuel terror activity" and set out a list of perfect scenarios in a series of trouble spots 10 years from now.

They call for stability for Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel to live in "peaceful coexistence" with its Arab neighbors and Iran to be devoid of nuclear weapons. They also say that there should be "no new failed states, dictatorships or wars" in the Middle East and South Asia.

"If all or most of the above were in place, threats from other sources of Islamic terrorism (eg Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria) would be manageable or on the way to resolution," they conclude.

"Any remaining deployments of the British armed forces should be seen as contributing to international stability and security."

Blair's office declined to comment on the leaked documents, but said: "We recognise that people have used Iraq as an excuse for terrorist activity but clearly plenty of terrorist activity against the UK and its citizens has pre-dated that.

In an interview in The Observer weekly, meanwhile, General Charles Guthrie, a former chief of the defense staff, described the deployment of soldiers in Afghanistan as "cuckoo."

"Anyone who thought this was going to be a picnic in Afghanistan ....to launch the British army in with the numbers there are, while we're still going in Iraq, is cuckoo," he told The Observer.

Lord Guthrie, who was one of Blair's most trusted commanders before he quit in 2001, also cast doubt on Blair's claim that he would produce all the extra helicopters and other resources the army needed.

LONDON, Sunday, AFP

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