UK Politics

Bin Laden death 'devastating blow' to al-Qaeda - Hague

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Media captionForeign Secretary William Hague: "Death of Bin Laden a devastating but not terminal blow to al-Qaeda"

The death of Osama Bin Laden is "a devastating blow" to al-Qaeda but its terrorist threat remains, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

While the al-Qaeda's leader's killing was a major boost, it may not be "terminal" for the group, he warned.

In a speech in London, he also said the international community must do all it could to help pro-democracy movements survive in the Middle East.

He warned Libya and Syria that opposing change was "doomed to failure".

Mr Hague was speaking after US President Barack Obama stated that images of Osama Bin Laden, killed by US special forces during a raid on his compound in Pakistan, will not be released.

He said "graphic" photos taken of Osama Bin Laden shortly after his death could be used as a "propaganda tool" to incite violence and threaten US national security.

'True expression'

In the keynote annual Mansion House foreign policy speech, Mr Hague said the killing was a "devastating but not terminal blow" to al-Qaeda and he urged the international community not to let up in its fight against terrorism.

"We will need to continue to fight against terrorism, wherever it rears its head, with renewed determination," he said.

Now was "the time" for the Taliban to "break with" al-Qaeda and engage in a political dialogue in Afghanistan, he added.

In the long run, he said, it would be the Muslim people of the world who would "inflict the greatest defeat" on the ideology of Islamist extremism.

"Some wrongly thought that 9/11 was the expression of Muslim grievances. It was not," he said.

"The true expression of what the people of the Muslim world want was seen in Tahrir Square in 2011, not at Ground Zero in 2001."

Addressing the situation in North Africa and the Middle East, Mr Hague called on the international community to do more to help ensure the wave of the pro-democracy uprisings there are sustained and have a lasting legacy.

Urging the EU to offer "the hand of friendship" - and economic support - to countries embracing political reforms, he warned greater engagement could help prevent a "collapse back into more authoritarian regimes, conflict and increased terrorism".

'Moment of opportunity'

And he suggested that governments which sought to repress the "legitimate grievances" of their people could not ultimately survive.

"Governments that set their face against reform altogether, as Libya has done and Syria is beginning to do, are doomed to failure," he added.

"Simply refusing to address legitimate grievances or attempting to stamp them out will fail. The idea of freedom cannot be confined behind bars, however strong the lock."

Earlier Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed Osama Bin Laden's death would give added momentum to global efforts to fight terrorism and build a lasting peace in the Middle East.

"With the end of Bin Laden, with the Arab Spring, with all that is happening in the world, we think this is a moment of opportunity to continue the work, to defeat terrorism in our world, to continue the expansion of democracy, civil rights and freedom across the Middle East and North Africa," he said ahead of talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in London.

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