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UK candidate: Stay the course in Iraq
Updated: 2005-09-02 10:48

Britain made a disastrous mistake in invading Iraq, but must not compound it by pulling its troops out quickly, a candidate for the leadership of the opposition Conservative Party said Thursday.

"It would be immoral to walk away from the consequences of our actions, leaving behind anarchy and civil war in Iraq," said Kenneth Clarke, who announced his bid to be opposition leader this week.

"Disengaging from Iraq has to be part of a much larger and more sophisticated political program than we're delivering at the moment," he told reporters.

Clarke, who opposed the invasion, said the reasons Prime Minister Tony Blair's government gave for the war were "bogus."

He also argued the conflict in Iraq has fueled terrorism.

"The disastrous decision to invade Iraq has made Britain a more dangerous place," he said. "The war did not create the danger of Islamic terrorism in this country. ... However, the decision by the U.K. government to become the leading ally of (U.S. President George W. Bush) in the Iraq debacle has made Britain one of the foremost targets for Islamic extremists."

Clarke hopes to succeed Michael Howard, who is to step down as Tory leader at the end of the year.

Clarke said Blair's government should not try to rush through new anti-terrorist laws in the wake of the London bombings.

"The government's response to every terrorist event is to propose new tougher anti-terrorist laws," he said. "I have always supported tough and exceptional laws against terrorism of every kind."

"However, we do not lack anti-terrorist laws. I do not believe that the recent London bombs were the result of any deficiencies in our legal system," Clarke said.

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