In New Year message to Britain, Blair says the war on terrorism is not over
Sunday, December 30th 2001, 12:00 am
News On 6
LONDON (AP) _ Thousands of terrorists trained by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network pose a grave threat to the international community and must be rooted out, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday.
In his New Year message to the nation, Blair said Britain, the United States and other governments had made great progress in the war on terrorism but that much still needs to be done.
``Many thousands of terrorists have been trained in the terror camps of Afghanistan and have long since left there,'' Blair said in a statement released by his Downing Street office.
``They continue to pose a risk and the international community must continue to be vigilant and determined in rooting them out and shutting down their networks,'' he added.
Blair repeated his commitment to helping Afghanistan achieve stability after decades of war. He said Britain would not ``make the mistakes of the past and walk away.''
Britain is to lead a U.N.-authorized International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. It is expected to number up to 6,000 troops.
The focus of Blair's message, however, was not foreign affairs but the state of Britain's public services _ in particular education, health, transport and law enforcement.
The prime minister made improving Britain's ailing public services _ especially the once-proud National Health Service _ a centerpiece of his re-election campaign last spring.
Complaints about poor treatment and lengthy waiting times in the health service abound, and Blair's Labor government has also come under mounting pressure to overhaul the country's inefficient rail network.
He acknowledged that there remained ``huge frustration at some of our public services,'' but insisted a series of reforms, coupled with long-term increases in government investment, would improve them.
Blair also referred to the European single currency, which goes into circulation in 12 European countries _ but not Britain _ on Jan. 1. He restated the government's policy of adopting the euro if key economic conditions are met and the move is approved in a referendum.