London, May 31 : One of Britain's most senior policemen has said that the Government should negotiate with al-Qaeda in a strategy to end its campaign of violence.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said that he could not think of a single terrorism campaign in history that had ended without negotiation.
Sir Hugh, reportedly a front-runner to be the next commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that 30 years of tackling the IRA convinced him that policing - detecting plots and arresting people - was not enough alone to defeat terrorists.
"If you want my professional assessment of any terrorism campaign, what fixes it is talking and engaging and judging when the conditions are right for that to take place," The Time quoted him, as saying.
Sir Hugh admitted that negotiating with terrorists means "thinking the unthinkable" and said that some of the biggest risks his officers took were talking to people that "historically they would not have dreamed of talking to".
He cites his meeting in 2004 with the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams as an example of how one-time enemies can become partners in peace.
Asked if he was saying "we should talk to al-Qaeda", Sir Hugh told the newspaper: "Well that's the logic of...I don't think that's unthinkable, the question will be one of timing."
He also called for the number of police forces to be slashed from 43 to nine to better fight terrorism and gave warning that the threat from dissident republicans in Ulster was at its greatest in five years.