UK & World News

  • 23 April 2014, 15:22

Blair Warns Of 'Growing' Radical Islam Threat

Former prime minister Tony Blair has said the West must work with countries like Russia and China to combat the growing threat of radical Islam.

The ex-Labour leader told Sky News the crisis in Ukraine had pushed the situations in the Middle East off the agenda, despite the chaos in the region.

The Middle East envoy branded the turmoil in Syria "an unmitigated disaster" and pressed for an agreement to be reached with President Bashar al Assad, "repugnant though it may seem".

And Mr Blair called for further Nato involvement in Libya, warning the country's disintegration would threaten to destabilise the entire region.

At the root of the crisis lay "a radicalised and politicised view of Islam", he argued.

While acknowledging the "painful engagements" in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr Blair stressed the need to engage in the Middle East.

He said: "The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world.

"It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation."

In dealing with this issue, he said, there was "a complete identity of interest between East and West".

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Blair said: "This rising threat of Islamism is a threat that we share in common - West and East.

"Whatever our differences on Ukraine and indeed other issues, it's very important on this particular issue given the turmoil that is happening in the Middle East at the moment, that we work with those that share a common interest in defeating Islamism

"But none of that should alter in any way our position on the Ukraine."

Earlier, during a speech in London, Mr Blair described Syria as a "country in disintegration".

"We are now in a position where both Assad staying and the opposition taking over seem bad options," he said.

"The former is responsible for creating this situation.

"But the truth is that there are so many fissures and problems around elements within the opposition that people are rightly wary now of any solution that is an outright victory for either side.

"Repugnant though it may seem, the only way forward is to conclude the best agreement possible even if it means in the interim President Assad stays for a period."

The West also had a "responsibility" for the chaotic situation in Libya following the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Arguing Libya was "not Iraq or Afghanistan", he said: "It is not impossible to help and Nato has the capability to do so.

"However reluctant we are to make this commitment, we have to recognise the de-stabilising impact Libya is having at present.

"If it disintegrates completely, it will affect the whole of the region around it and feed the instability in sub-Saharan Africa."

He concluded: "This is not a conventional war. It isn't a struggle between super powers or over territory. But it is real. It is fearsome in its impact. It is growing in its reach.

"Engagement does not always mean military involvement. Commitment does not mean going it alone. But it does mean stirring ourselves. It does mean seeing the struggle for what it is. It does mean taking a side and sticking with it."

Pressed by Sky News over who was to blame for long delays to the publication of the Iran Inquiry report, Mr Blair said: "It is the responsibility of the people who run the inquiry."

He has previously denied he was responsible for the hold-up, caused by a row over the release of documents.