Britain passes anti-terrorism law to prevent new bombings

The British government pressed ahead Monday with a new anti-terrorism law in the wake of the deadly London bombings, setting the stage for confrontation with civil rights groups and political opponents in the new session of Parliament.

Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes to pass the Counter-Terrorism Bill, designed to tackle extremist Islamic clerics, by the year's end.

Despite a strong degree of consensus between the main political parties in the immediate aftermath of the July attacks, the government faces opposition, above all to its plan to detain terror suspects for three months without charge, instead of the current 14 days.

Debate on the legislation is likely to dominate the new parliamentary session, which began Monday following an 80-day summer recess.

Blair's official spokesman on Monday defended extending the detention period for terror suspects, saying the proposal followed a direct request from senior police officers. He stressed the power would only be used in exceptional cases and would be scrutinized by senior judges.

The Home Office will publish the legislation on Wednesday. It must be approved by both chambers of Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, before it can become law, the AP says.

Since the July 7 London bombings, which killed 52 bus and subway commuters, and the failed attacks two weeks later, Blair has moved swiftly to tighten terrorism laws and crack down on Islamic extremists.

If approved by Parliament, the bill will outlaw "indirect incitement" of terrorism, targeting extremist Islamic clerics blamed for seducing Muslim youth.


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