updated 8/28/2005 1:26:00 AM ET 2005-08-28T05:26:00

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office was warned more than a year before the London bombings that British involvement in Iraq was fueling Muslim extremism at home, a newspaper reported.

The Observer published a leaked letter from Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Michael Jay to Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull from May 18, 2004, which said that Britain’s foreign policy in the Middle East was “a key driver” for the recruitment of extremists.

In the letter, which was obtained by the newspaper, Jay wrote that a “recurring theme” of extremism in Britain’s Muslim community was “the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the middle east peace process and Iraq.”

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office, who did not give his name because as a civil servant he is not allowed to, said the office did not comment on leaked documents.

Attached to the letter was a strategy document that said Britain was now viewed by extremists as a “crusader state,” the paper reported.

Blair’s government has rejected suggestions that the July 7 London bombings on three underground trains and a bus, which killed at least 56 people, were related to Britain’s support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

There are about 2 million Muslims in Britain, and the overwhelming majority are moderate in their views, but extremist groups have been active in recent years, distributing inflammatory leaflets outside mosques.

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