'We should negotiate with terrorists'

FORMER hostage Terry Waite has hinted he has been involved in negotiations with al Qaeda in trying to bring an end to terrorist atrocities.

Laurence Cawley

FORMER hostage Terry Waite has hinted he has been involved in negotiations with al Qaeda in trying to bring an end to terrorist atrocities.

During his long and varied career, 60-year-old Mr Waite, who lives in Hartest, near Bury St Edmunds, helped secure the release of numerous hostages in countries like Iran, Libya and the Lebanon before being taken hostage himself in Beirut, where he was held for nearly five years.

Speaking to the EADT, Mr Waite voiced his belief that talking with terrorist groups was the only way towards to a more peaceful future.

Asked directly whether he had been involved in any talks with al Qaeda, Mr Waite said: “I will say no more.”

But he stressed: “Some Governments say they won't talk to terrorists but in fact talks are taking place. We either choose to fight or speak. I am all for diplomatic exchange.

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“We will never win the war against terrorism by military means. We have to talk to every terrorist group. Governments, such as the Scandinavians, have been very active in the Middle East. Sometimes it is Government sources doing the talking, though that can depend on the circumstances, sometimes it is NGOs (non governmental organisations).

“Twenty years ago I was told it was impossible to speak with Colonel Gaddafi but I was able to bring hostages home. I was told we could not speak with Iran's Revolutionary Guard but again we got hostages released. Things can happen. It is all about the spirit in which we do things.”

He added: “It is impossible to talk to absolute extremists; you cannot talk to the psychopaths. But there are people under the umbrella that is al Qaeda with whom we can and should be speaking with.”

Since being released from captivity in 1991, Mr Waite has worked as a lecturer, writer and broadcaster and has given talks around the world.

He is the president of the homelessness charity Emmaus, patron of the Romany Society and a founder of both Y-Care, the international development wing of the YMCA, and Hostage UK, which supports the families of those taken hostage.

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