/ 26 May 2006

MP under fire for saying killing Blair ‘morally justified’

A British lawmaker renowned for his firebrand rhetoric drew a storm of criticism on Friday by saying a suicide bomber would be ”morally justified” in killing Prime Minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war.

George Galloway was asked in a magazine interview if he thought such an attack was justifiable provided there were no other casualties.

The MP for the anti-war party, Respect, replied: ”Yes, it would be morally justified. I am not calling for it — but if it happened it would be of a wholly different moral order to the events of July 7.”

He was referring to the London attacks last year, when four Islamic extremists killed 52 people and themselves by bombing the transport network.

”It would be entirely logical and explicable,” the leftist lawmaker said.

”And morally equivalent to ordering the deaths of thousands of innocent people in Iraq — as Blair did,” he told GQ magazine.

Galloway, however, said he would alert the authorities if he learnt of a plot to kill the prime minister.

”Such an operation would be counter-productive because it would just generate a new wave of anti-Arab sentiment whipped up by the press,” he said.

”It would lead to new draconian anti-terror laws, and would probably strengthen the resolve of the British and American services in Iraq rather than weaken it. So, yes, I would inform the authorities.”

Galloway also said he would rather see Blair brought to trial for war crimes than killed.

His assassination comments were instantly condemned by fellow lawmakers, prompting Galloway to issue a clarification.

He drew a comparison between what he had said and comments made by Blair’s wife Cherie in June 2002, when she appeared to express sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers.

”Like the prime minister’s wife commenting on suicide bombings in Israel, I understand why such desperate acts take place and why those involved might believe such actions are morally justifiable,” the lawmaker said, reiterating the fact that he would not support anyone trying to murder Blair.

The clarification failed to wash with his critics.

MP Stephen Pound, of Blair’s governing Labour Party, accused Galloway of being ”as slippery as a snake in salad cream” by trying to use Cherie Blair as a means to divert attention from what he said.

”To actually talk about assassinating a fellow citizen in a way that even mildly condones it is a step far too far,” Pound told BBC television.

Asked if Parliament had any powers to sanction Galloway, Pound said: ”In Parliamentary terms I don’t know what we can do. All I do know is that when George sits down at a table in the tea room everybody else gets up and leaves.”

Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the second main opposition party, Liberal Democrats, also condemned the comments.

”If Mr Galloway is being accurately reported, he could well be regarded as providing encouragement to someone who might be disposed to carry out a crime of that kind,” Campbell said.

Galloway drew the wrath of the Stop the War Coalition as well.

”We don’t agree with Tony Blair’s actions, but neither do we agree with suicide bombers or assassinations,” the group told The Independent newspaper.

Galloway is no stranger to controversy.

He was kicked out of Labour in October 2003 over his comments on the United States-led invasion of Iraq and formed his own left-wing Respect party.

Galloway stunned the country earlier this year with his robotic dancing in a lycra bodysuit and cat impressions on the reality television show ”Celebrity Big Brother”.

On a trip to Cuba this week, he also joined Fidel Castro on a television show designed to rebut claims that the Cuban president had amassed a large personal fortune. — AFP