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Duncan: This is a war against terrorism and poverty

As Big Ben struck midnight at the close of the last century, many felt in their heart that over the few preceding years, the world had become a safer place. Communism had collapsed in economic disarray, some rogue states appeared to have backed off, and there were fewer conflicts around the globe. Even Fidel Castro had started to wear a suit.

But on Tuesday 11th September, it was not just America, it was the whole world which suffered a rude awakening. Even now, it's somehow almost impossible for any of us fully to absorb and comprehend the scale and painful ghastliness of the atrocity which hit New York. We would rather dwell on the subsequent heroism, the resolve and the inspiring unity of New Yorkers than we would relive the thought of people being burnt, crushed and suffocated. But if we are to do justice to the 6,000 who died, then we must relive those haunting thoughts, because it happened once and it could happen again.

It is our duty as politicians to do all we can, with a sense of responsibility and humanity, to maintain the security of the people who elect us.

The response to the destruction of the twin towers takes the world of conflict and diplomacy into completely new territory. We are going to have to steer carefully through uncharted waters. In the past, attacks of this sort have usually involved the invasion of one country by another. But this is not a case of invasion of territory the likes of which we have seen before in Kuwait, and in the Falklands and, of course, in Afghanistan itself. No: this is a different phenomenon.

And what we have to understand is that because it is not a conventional act of war, it requires an unconventional response. The enemy is not the regime of one country, the solution is not a simple matter of liberating one invaded nation. Those who harbour terrorists will become our enemy too, but the principle enemy, the like of Osama bin Laden, will prove elusive and may be difficult to track down. We will need to combine diplomacy with covert activity and targeted military action. To some extent it will be about finding a needle in a haystack, and we have to destroy it without destroying the haystack too.

But be under no illusion. There is an enemy. And if we turn our back on that enemy and pretend that the threat will go away, the price for doing so would be higher than any of us would ever wish to contemplate. Doing nothing is not an option, and those who say we should would be making the world a more dangerous place.

But, despite our anger and fury at what happened in the States, it is a measure of the standards we claim to enjoy in our own countries that we should set for ourselves the highest standards of humanity and decency in the way we respond.

Anger and fury are no proper foundation for shaping a response. Cool heads and determination are. And it is to the lasting credit of Prime Ministers and Presidents across the community of nations that we have seen a measured and coherent reaction to the atrocity America faced.

Some said President Bush would lash out and go blanket bombing. He hasn't. Some said he would not be up to the task. He has been. Some said America would go it alone. It didn't.

Instead we have seen a month of remarkable diplomacy. George Bush has put himself at the head of a unique coalition of nations who are prepared to join in a carefully designed response.

Whatever the depth of our loyalty to this party, and all who are here will feel that very deeply, we all subscribe as well to a belief in nation and a belief in values all of which bring each of us here in the first place. And it is from that deep well of decency that we find a natural desire when we face a threat in the world to set aside all that is partisan, and to take pride in the role Britain can play at a moment like this.

Our Prime Minister has played a significant role in shaping that coalition and for proving what we have always believed, which is that Britain continues and will always continue to play a major role in world affairs, contributing as we do an expertise and understanding which binds different countries into one common cause.

I believe it was right for Jack Straw to go to Iran. I admire the way in which Tony Blair has visited India, Pakistan and Russia. I welcome the way in which the UN has supported action. I commend the resolve of NATO, and I admire those countries which despite acute local difficulty, have resolved to support the action that started last night.

And this conference especially will have admired the way in which Iain Duncan Smith, from the first second he was elected as our leader, has shown the highest standards of clarity, decency and responsibility in everything he has said and done.

One of the most powerful weapons we can deploy as we field our diplomats, and our politicians and our armed forces, is to show that we understand Arab opinion and appreciate the feelings of Muslims everywhere. There is a risk, that in all we do to address the threat of terrorism in one country, we also provoke an adverse reaction in another.

Let me say, to and through this Conference, that we fully appreciate opinion on the street, be it Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait, or crucially in that most pivotal of all countries in the region at the moment, Pakistan. We know that any replacement of the Taliban by an unsatisfactory alternative would cause a problem in Pakistan; we know that opinion in many Gulf countries has long since hardened against US military domination; and we know and understand that such opinion is all shaped by the continuing backdrop of Arab - Israeli differences.

So let me say it again, and it can never be said too often: let me say once again to Muslims in Britain and everywhere - our enemy is terrorism: never is Islam our enemy. Our enemy is terrorism - and terrorism is your enemy too.

If you abhor attacks on Muslims never forget that in the rubble of the twin towers of New York lie hundreds of Muslims too. Our enemy is a shared enemy:, our cause should be a shared cause. Islam is not our enemy: it is our friend. We are in this together: and together we should stand.

The magnitude of the attack on the United States, and the nature of the threat which so clearly remains, has demanded a military response. Our armed forces are being deployed against an enemy which more than ever before is more difficult to identify and more difficult to overcome.

We know that each and every one of our soldiers, and sailors and airmen will do their duty with a skill and determination unrivalled in any other country's forces. As they do that duty they will know that they have our full support back home, and they will enjoy our unwavering admiration for their bravery and professionalism.

But there is something else this Conference should know, and which people everywhere should know too. There is a further dimension to this conflict on which this Party has a clear policy and a robust point of view. And it is this.

As far as we are concerned a war against terrorism is not enough. For us, and I hope for everyone else, this dramatic unfolding of events is not just a war on terrorism: it is a war on poverty too. It's a war on all those ingredients and circumstances which the likes of bin Laden seize on and exploit for their evil aims.

A few moments ago I made reference both to Arab opinion, and to the high standards of decency we must set in our response. 'Prove it then', someone might say. 'I will', I say in return. And the way we will prove it is to be as firm in our determination to overcome the humanitarian plight of Afghans and refugees, as we are in our determination to rid the world of terrorism.

Even before the vicious attack on America, Afghanistan was in desperate need of aid. Its people were already on the point of starvation and its infrastructure in a state of collapse. If we are to defend the standards we have, we must help those who are in such desperate need. If we are to be practical and genuine in our resolve, then we must turn a rich seam of compassion into real practical help.

Our determination to rid the world of terrorism will go hand in hand with a similar determination to come to the aid of refugees and to relieve their humanitarian plight.

We have a responsibility to ensure that the new refugee camps created meet acceptable international standards. We want people to have enough food to eat, clean water to drink and to be free from the fear of disease, and misery.

We will not tolerate camps where men, women and children struggle in day-to-day squalor. People dying in refugee camps is no more acceptable than seeing people die at the hands of a terrorist. Our standards must be high: and these standards must be met.

In reaching those standards, we must recognise that this must be a shared responsibility. No one country should have to bear a disproportionate burden. Pakistan, Iran and the surrounding countries have received four and a half million refugees already. Without our support they simply won't cope, and support them we must.

But there is a further and crucial part of our policy. It is not enough for us to win a war, and then walk away. We have a responsibility to reconstruct Afghanistan after the conflict, and to make it a country that is safe and with a future, to make it a country its people will want to return to. Nobody can live in rubble. If we are to unite a nervous world, and prove our decency in practical terms, then this reconstruction must be a primary part of our aims.

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