By Tom Rivers
Prime Minister Tony Blair has publicly expressed his sympathy for those who have lost loved ones in the Beslan school siege, in Russia. In his monthly news conference, Mr. Blair also underlined that Britain stands in solidarity with Russia in the fight against terrorism.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair disclosed that he has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the tragic school massacre in Beslan.
"We share Russia's grief in this dark hour for their country and particularly with the people of Beslan, for the terrible atrocity that they have suffered, we mourn with them and we express our total and complete solidarity. The British people with the people of Beslan, with the people of Russia at this moment," said Mr. Blair.
Mr. Blair said Britain stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia in the global fight against terror, which the British leader added has entered a new phase. Mr. Blair said that Beslan represents what he called a new type of terrorism, extreme terrorism.
"As I said to President Putin yesterday [Monday], whatever the terrorists do, and today we live in a world I am afraid where this form of terrorism without limits, this form of extraordinary and appalling extremism can affect any country in the world, we are absolutely united in our determination to defeat that terrorism whether in Russia or anywhere else in the world," he added.
The British leader was pressed by reporters to comment on whether he thought Mr. Putin might consider adopting a new approach to Chechnya and to try to open up a dialogue with extremists there. Mr. Blair said it would be inappropriate to speculate about such matters while Russia was in a period of deep mourning. But he did condemn the actions of the hostage-takers in the strongest possible terms.
"Whatever political causes people have, there can be absolutely no excuse whatever in pursuing them in this way," he said. "And I think many people here and right around the world will have been in a state of profound shock that anyone could be so evil as to use children in this way. To kill and maim innocent people is, I am afraid, a feature of terrorism. To kill and maim innocent children in this way is something I think that has taken terrorism to a different, even more depraved level and our response should be one of complete solidarity with Russia, with the Russian people."
Meanwhile, President Putin has told two British newspapers, the Guardian and the Independent, that entering into any form of talks with Chechen separatists would be akin to the West negotiating with al Qaida chief, Osama Bin Laden. It simply will not happen, he said.
Tom Rivers, for VOA news, London.