Straw set for grilling over Bali blasts

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was today appearing before MPs to face fresh questions about intelligence reports received ahead of the Bali bombing.

Complaints about the lack of Foreign Office help from Britons caught up in the tragedy are also likely to be raised in the Commons.

The Foreign Office stressed that the minister would be addressing "all aspects of the situation in Bali".

Mr Straw is expected to delay his arrival at a monthly European Union meeting in Luxembourg to make the statement.

It follows shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram's call for him to come before the Commons.

Ministers have repeatedly denied reports that intelligence warnings on Bali were ignored.

But Mr Ancram said their contradictory explanations had sown confusion.

And he seized on Australian Prime Minister John Howard's openness as an example to Mr Straw.

Speaking on his country's day of national morning yesterday, Mr Howard said no warning had been received which could have avoided the tragedy.

But the Australian PM said it was right that his Government was questioned and held to account over what had happened.

"I have said I will have all the intelligence material investigated by the director general of intelligence and security," he told the BBC1 Breakfast with Frost programme.

"That does not denote a lack of confidence in the agencies. But when something of this magnitude occurs we have an obligation to have it thoroughly examined."

Foreign Office minister Baroness Amos, who flew to Bali after the atrocity, appeared to reject a similar investigation in Britain.

"If we had specific information that led us to believe that this could have happened we would have warned people immediately," she told the programme.

"It is irresponsible to suggest that the British Government would not do that."

But Mr Ancram argued that Mr Howard's words had made it even more imperative that Mr Straw should appear before the Commons.

"He has created the confusion. He must now immediately seek to dispel it in Parliament," he said.

Baroness Amos has already apologised for the "lack of co-ordination" in the help offered to Britons caught up in the tragedy.

The British consular team in the area has since been strengthened.

And the peer said yesterday: "Our co-ordination was not as it should have been and that meant we caused our families more distress than we should have done.

"They are looking to us to support them through this process and we have strengthened our operation on the ground and our service will be much better now."

Meanwhile, Indonesia's moderate Muslim organisations today demanded that authorities crack down on religious extremists, who they said represent a fringe minority among the country's 170 million Muslims.

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said he believed that Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of a group suspected in last week's Bali bombing, should have been arrested long ago.

"I believe that Bashir is a terrorist," Wahid said in a radio interview, reported by The Associated Press.

Wahid, who was replaced as head of state by Megawati Sukarnoputri last year, has been sharply critical of her administration's cautious approach toward radicals.

Wahid's organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama - whose 40 million members make it the world's largest Muslim grouping - and the 30-million member Muhammadiyah both urged the government to act more decisively against small groups of militants such as Jemaah Islamiyah, which is suspected in the October 12 nightclub bombing in Bali that killed more than 180 people and injured 300.

Around 30 Britons were believed killed.

The latest Foreign Office information shows no change in the number of Britons who have died or are reported missing following the bombing - 11 are confirmed dead and 21 are listed as either missing or unconfirmed dead.

Megawati has already signed an emergency decree that allow terrorist suspects to be detained for up to six months without charge, but religious moderates have called on her administration to implement even tougher anti-terrorist legislation.

Indonesian authorities are still considering how to interrogate Bashir, Jemaah Islamiyah's ailing leader. He was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of involvement in a series of church bombings two years ago, but has been in hospital since Friday suffering from breathing problems. He denies any links with terrorism.

Bashir's doctors said he was improving and could be released in two or three days.

In Bali, General Edward Aritonang, a national police spokesman, said yesterday that authorities now believe that three explosions destroyed Paddy's pub and Sari's nightclub at the Kuta beach resort. Previously, it was thought there were two explosions.

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