Former Blair Aide Pushes Qaeda Dialogue

Secret British talks with IRA could serve as example
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2008 7:05 AM CDT
Prince Harry, foreground left, explains to local Afghan man how to go around a British Army cordon in the desert in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Feb. 21, 2008.    (AP Photo/PA, John Stillwell)
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(Newser) – One of Tony Blair's former top aides has called for Western governments to talk to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the Guardian reports. Jonathan Powell, the former British prime minister's chief of staff for 12 years, is thought to have played a key role in negotiating a settlement in Northern Ireland. He said classified papers made him realize that secret talks between the IRA and the British paved the way for a peace deal.

"It's very difficult for democratic governments to do—talk to a terrorist movement that's killing your people," Powell said, admitting there would be practical problems but insisting it was vital to keep the lines of communication open. "Who do you talk to? And what do you actually have to talk about?" he pondered. A Foreign Office spokesman said the prospect of a mutually acceptable agreement was "inconceivable."