Galloway praises Iraqi insurgents

Key points

• Respect MP George Galloway calls Iraqi insurgents 'martyrs' on Arab TV

• Galloway says that UK, US and Iraq 'puppet regime' will lose in Iraq

• Calls for remarks that incide attacks on British troops to be criminalised

Key quote

"Even the puppet ministers and regime in Baghdad know it ... America is losing the war in Iraq. And this will not change. The resistance is getting stronger every day, and the will to remain as an occupier by Britain and America is getting weaker every day" - George Galloway, Respect MP

Story in full ANOTHER extraordinary attack by George Galloway on the UK's continuing presence in Iraq prompted calls yesterday for the incitement of attacks on British troops to be made a criminal offence.

Mr Galloway used a series of appearances on Arab television stations to praise insurgents fighting British forces in Iraq, refer to them as martyrs and to accuse the Prime Minister of using the London bomb attacks to justify the war on terror.

His comments drew strong criticism from politicians on both sides of the House, with the Labour MP Eric Joyce claiming that he was putting the lives of British soldiers at risk and the shadow defence spokesman, Gerald Howarth, calling for the law to be used to prosecute those who incited insurgents to attack British forces.

But support for the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq came from the London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said it was essential if London was to avoid more bomb attacks.

Mr Galloway, the Respect party's sole MP, was at his most florid during a round of television interviews, describing Jerusalem and Baghdad as two beautiful daughters of the Arab world. "The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters," he said.

He accused the United States of failing in an attempt to terrorise the world, and sang the praises of the insurgents fighting against British and US forces.

"Even the puppet ministers and regime in Baghdad know it ... America is losing the war in Iraq. And this will not change. The resistance is getting stronger every day, and the will to remain as an occupier by Britain and America is getting weaker every day," he said.

Mr Galloway repeated his claim that Tony Blair and George Bush were the true terrorists, and denied that al-Qaeda was a force in Iraq. And he accused Mr Blair of using the London bombings to shore up the case for the war on terror. "Mr Blair is using this crime and all these dead people as a justification for this absurd idea of a war on terrorism," he said.

Back in London last night, and speaking before an anti-war conference, Mr Galloway denied he was putting UK troops at risk. "The people stirring up hatred for our troops are those who put them in Iraq, not the likes of us who want to bring them home to their families," he said.

Gerald Howarth said: "I really do think it should be a criminal offence for somebody to encourage insurgents and others to attack our troops."

A spokesman for the Attorney General said that it was possible that there may be grounds for a prosecution but it would be up to police to investigate any complaints.

Downing Street reiterated Mr Blair's pledge that British forces would not be pulled out of Iraq until Iraqi forces were strong enough to take full responsibility for security.

But four weeks after the first London bomb attacks, Ken Livingstone used a newspaper column to argue that total withdrawal was the only way to avert further attacks.

"Protecting London from terrorists demands that we shrink the pool of the alienated that bombers draw on by treating all communities as equal parts of British society - not only theoretically, but in reality, he said.

"And it means withdrawing from Iraq."