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Britain's Middle East policy condemned by Bradford MP
Updated 10:23am Thursday 28th February 2013 in News
George Galloway clashed with a Foreign Office minister yesterday, when he claimed Britain is arming Al-Qaeda in Syria.
The Respect MP for Bradford West used a Commons debate to warn the money was being used to “terrorise” Christians and others in the war-torn state.
The claim was fiercely denied by Alistair Burt, the Conservative minister for the Middle East, who said it was “logically ridiculous”.
However, Mr Galloway leapt on the minister’s admission that he could not be “absolutely certain” that no British funding for Syrian opposition groups was reaching Jihadists.
Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus after the debate, he said: “The most significant thing was that the minister could not rule out that British taxpayers’ money is going to Al-Qaeda in Syria.”
The clash came during a wide-ranging debate on Britain’s ‘relations with the Arab world’, during which Mr Galloway attacked the Government for:
* Only allowing MPs who are ‘Friends of Israel’ to be Middle East minister – both Conservative and Labour.
* Supporting sanctions against Iran while Israel, which had hundreds of nuclear weapons, “had the red carpet rolled out before it”.
* The prime minister’s regular trips to “brutal dictatorships” in the Middle East - accompanied by a “retinue of arms salesmen”.
But the most explosive part of the debate came when Mr Galloway alleged Britain was backing extremists trying to overthrow President Assad, in Syria.
He said: “We are already giving them weapons. We are giving them money – which is the same thing as giving them weapons “If you give Al-Qaeda money, what do you think they are buying with the money? Are they buying Elastoplasts and other medical supplies?
“No, they are buying weapons, to terrorise not just Christians, but other Muslims, other ethnicities – Kurdish people, for example – on a daily basis.
“The minister knows this, the Foreign Office knows this and they have to give an answer - if not me, than to the British people.”
But Mr Burt accused Mr Galloway of going “too far”, telling MPs: “It is not true that the United Kingdom is supplying Al-Qaeda, either with money or weapons “There are Jihadists involved, but it’s the wish of the United Kingdom and our international partners to make sure they do not get supplied with weapons “That is why we are so determined to see the success of the Syrian National Opposition Coalition, to make sure they have legitimacy.”
However, asked – by a Conservative backbencher – if he could give a “categorical assurance”, Mr Burt replied that “no-one can be absolutely certain”.
He said: “I can give an assurance that it is not the intention of the United Kingdom, in any efforts being made to support the Syrian people, that any money goes to Al-Qaeda.”