Tony Blair’s plans for a new world order in which advanced nations would take armed action to remove brutal or failed regimes were blocked yesterday by fellow centre-Left leaders.
Tony Blair argued that world leaders could not ‘walk by on the other side’
Mr Blair had argued that world leaders could not “walk by on the other side” if people were being brutally downtrodden.
At a conference attended by 14 Social Democrat heads of state or government at Bagshot, Surrey, several leaders refused to sign up to a far-reaching statement paving the way for military action to protect the world from repressive governments.
Brazil and Argentina were said to have led protests from those who believed the declaration would have altered agreements on international sovereignty. Others feared it appeared to be a retrospective justification for the war on Iraq.
German officials denied reports that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who strongly opposed the Iraq war, had also held out against the wording. But it is understood that he had strong reservations and acted to prevent anything that would be seen to have approved of the decision to go to war.
Early drafts of the communiqué, quoting from a report by the Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, launched by the Canadian government in 2000, stated: “Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.”
That wording did not appear in the final version. As a compromise, the conclusions agreed merely that the work being done by ICISS was a valuable contribution to a debate within the United Nations about how to deal with brutal regimes.
Amid signs of embarrassment in government circles, Downing Street said that although the section had been removed, the substance and meaning of the conclusions remained the same.
Mr Blair used a press conference at the end of the meeting to vent his frustration regarding the growing controversy over whether the Government exaggerated the threat from Iraq in the run up to the war.
He said Britain should be “proud” of its role in ousting Saddam Hussein. Over the past few days the first steps had been taken for Iraqi people to take control of their lives, while the UN had uncovered mass graves thought to contain 300,000 victims.
“I have no doubt at all that in the future, whatever the differences have been in the past, we can reconstruct Iraq as a stable and prosperous country and the world will be a more secure place as a result,” he said.
Earlier, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government stood by a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium ore for its nuclear programme from the west African state of Niger. The Government has been under pressure since the International Atomic Energy Agency disclosed that documents which it received relating to the allegation were crude forgeries.
Last week, the White House said that a reference to the claim – which was passed to the Americans by MI6 – should not have been included in the president’s State of the Union address.
However, Mr Straw said that Britain had not been able to reveal the source of the intelligence to America as it had been passed from a third, unnamed intelligence service. The IAEA said yesterday that it believed Britain’s evidence was also based on forgeries.
Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, last night wrote to Mr Blair urging him to instigate an independent inquiry.