FOREIGN Secretary David Miliband has been criticised for stating that terrorism could be "justifiable and effective" as the British death toll in Afghanistan passed the 200 milestone.
The Tories warned that the remarks – made in support of the ANC's armed struggle in South Africa – risked giving succour to the Taleban.
Mr Miliband was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Great Lives programme, where he paid tribute to anti-apartheid activist Joe Slovo. Mr Slovo, a friend of Mr Miliband's academic father Ralph, was one of the leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed military wing of the ANC.
The group carried out a number of attacks during its campaign, including the Church Street bombing in Pretoria in 1983 where 19 people were killed and more than 200 wounded. Many victims were civilians.
Asked by presenter Matthew Parris whether such terrorism was ever justified, Mr Miliband said: "Yes, there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, and yes, there are circumstances in which it is effective."
The remarks were recorded before the government announced the latest UK deaths in Afghanistan.
But shadow foreign secretary William Hague condemned Mr Miliband over his judgment.
"When so much of the efforts of our security services, and the sacrifices of our troops in Afghanistan, are devoted to defeating terrorists, this is hardly the time to argue that terrorism is sometimes acceptable," he said. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The suggestion that the Foreign Secretary condones terrorism is preposterous.