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Blair Leaves G8 Summit, Returns to London


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Here's a recap of the lead story. As we've been reporting, a series of bombs rocked central London today. British police officials say many people are dead, many more are wounded. The blasts hit the London transportation system during the morning rush hour. Three bombs exploded in the London Underground metro system. Another powerful bomb ripped the roof off a double-decker bus. British security officials say they received no advanced warning of the attacks, and say they do not yet know who's behind them, but a previously unknown group that calls itself the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe is claiming responsibility.

Here in this country, the Department of Homeland Security has raised the terror alert for mass transit systems to orange. The alert level has not been raised for airlines. There's no rise in the general alert level. These blasts come as world leaders are meeting in Scotland for the G8 Summit. British Prime Minister Tony Blair left that summit meeting, returning home to London. Before he left, he made a statement on behalf of the G8 leaders

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): All of our countries have suffered from the impact of terrorism. Those responsible have no respect for human life. We are united in our resolve to confront and defeat this terrorism that is not an attack on one nation, but on all nations and on civilized people everywhere.

CHADWICK: President Bush is also at this G8 Summit in Scotland, where we're joined now by NPR White House correspondent David Greene covering that conference.

David, we just heard from Tony Blair. What did Mr. Bush have to say about the attacks?

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Well, Alex, his comments in some ways were very much the same. He, like many of the leaders, took some time when the summit came to a halt after the reports came in and did a video news conference with his national security and homeland security officials back in Washington. And then Mr. Bush came out and gave a statement shortly after the prime minister gave his statement and was leaving for London. The president--his first priority was to urge Americans back at home and urge state and local officials to keep their eyes out as Americans were commuting to work, especially still on the West Coast at that point, and to look for anything suspicious. And then he went into some comments that are very familiar about terrorism. He said this shows that the war on terror, as he calls it, is continuing and this is an ideology of hate that whoever caused this in London is practicing and they're going to be defeated.

CHADWICK: It sure looks as though this attack is timed to specifically these leaders meeting there in Britain. That must be--I would think that that's what they all assume.

GREENE: It's certainly what Prime Minister Blair assumed. He came out and said that explicitly, that this was targeted at derailing the G8 Summit. And it put him in a bit of a tough spot it seemed. He was trying to balance two messages. One was being a leader who would go back to London and comfort that city and his people at a time of crisis and a time of fear, but at the same time, the prime minister was saying, `This is not going to knock things off course. This summit is going to continue. I'm coming back here tonight.'

The trouble for him was it was pretty clear to everyone that things were knocked off course. I mean, his helicopter was taking off, there was a lot of drama, the leaders were talking about terrorism instead of global warming. So you could argue that if the prime minister wanted to suggest that whoever the perpetrators were weren't able to throw this off, they might have been able to.

CHADWICK: But they're not calling this off. People aren't just going home and saying, `The heck with this. We have other things to do.'

GREENE: No, and that seemed to be very important to the prime minister to make that point this thing is going forward. He rushed his foreign secretary up here to begin chairing the meetings while he was in London. And they did close some of the sessions to the press, so they evidently didn't want those distractions, so to speak, while the prime minister was trying to comfort his country. But the talks are going forward, and the prime minister said he wants the discussions that were going to happen to go on. And whatever conclusions these leaders were going to come to, he wants them to come to those conclusions.

CHADWICK: So many global leaders in one place when this attack occurs. What's the reaction among them there?

GREENE: It was--really, just a pall set in on this whole place. And one of the most fascinating things, a lot of the security people, a lot of the police officers who were doing some much to tightly control this area were spending a few moments watching television and watching a lot of their comrades in London in a very vulnerable position.

CHADWICK: NPR White House correspondent David Greene. He's at the G8 Summit in Scotland.

David, thank you.

GREENE: My pleasure, Alex.

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CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.