Belfast Telegraph

Battle for Number Ten: Jeremy Corbyn insists he won't soften UK foreign policy

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has insisted he would not "soften" the UK's foreign policy if he became prime minister, after Conservative claims that he would be soft on terrorism.

Mr Corbyn's attempt, in the wake of last week's Manchester bombing, to draw a link between British involvement in military interventions overseas and terrorism at home led to Tory accusations that he was making excuses for extremists.

But on the Sky News/Channel 4 "Battle for Number Ten" general election TV special, Mr Corbyn condemned the bomber for his "appalling, abominable and atrocious act".

Mr Corbyn and Theresa May were being questioned separately by studio audiences and interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, after the Prime Minister refused to go head-to-head with other party leaders in a debate.

Challenged over whether he would "soften" the UK's foreign policy, Mr Corbyn said: "It's not about softening our foreign policy. It's about absolutely condemning what happened in Manchester."

He added: "We have to have a foreign policy around the world that doesn't leave large areas without any effective government - such as in Libya at the present time - which can become a breeding ground for enormous danger for all of us.

"My point was absolute condemnation. My point was that we need more police not less - that's why we've pledged to provide 10,000 more police on our streets - and we need a foreign policy that doesn't leave large areas of the world ungoverned so that we have a more secure future for all of us.

"Do not allow this to become an attack on our multicultural society or the wonderful faith of Islam. This was a perversion of Islam, what was done in Manchester."

Asked whether he would provide backing for fighters taking on the Islamic State terror group in Syria, Mr Corbyn said that the anti-IS forces on the ground were "complex and sometimes fighting each other".

He said: "We have to cut off the funds for IS, cut off the arms for IS, cut off their publicity as well, but also bring about a peace process in Syria by reconvening the Geneva talks, including all the neighbouring countries as well as Iran, but also bring about a constructive dialogue in Libya, so we don't have huge areas of that country, with all its oil wealth, ungoverned and a prey for this kind of thing."

Mr Corbyn was challenged by an audience member who claimed the Labour leader had "openly supported the IRA in the past" by attending a commemoration for eight IRA members killed by the SAS in Loughgall.

Mr Corbyn said there was a period of silence for "everyone who died in Northern Ireland" at the 1987 event.

When pressed further, Mr Corbyn said: "The contribution I made to that meeting was to call for a peace and dialogue process in Northern Ireland.

"It's only by dialogue and process we brought about peace in Northern Ireland and I think that's a good thing. And I think going forward, we need to make sure in the Brexit negotiations there is no return to any kind of hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic."

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