Lib Dem call for European foreign policy

LIBERAL Democrats should be in the vanguard of switching Britain's foreign relations emphasis away from dependency on the United States to becoming the lead player in a common European policy, the party's foreign affairs spokesman said today.

By Graham Dines

LIBERAL Democrats should be in the vanguard of switching Britain's foreign relations emphasis away from dependency on the United States to becoming the lead player in a common European policy, the party's foreign affairs spokesman said today.

Michael Moore said that where once there was a credible British foreign policy, Britain was now at odds with much of the world, mired in the consequences of an illegal war in Iraq and caught asking permission of the United States before taking up the cause of peace in the Middle East.

"Over the past six months in Afghanistan, we have had to face up to the consequences of the neglect of the past four years, caused in large part by the disastrous diversion in Iraq," said Mr Moore.


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"We have British soldiers fighting a war rather than keeping the peace. As communities from Moray to Dorset mourn the loss of the Nimrod and families from Colchester to the Midlands grieve for their loved ones, it is right for us to ask our government hard questions about the strategy, about the number of troops, and about the equipment our troops have."

Of Iraq, Mr Moore said: "The country is on the brink of civil war. The political process shuffles along, propped up by increasingly desperate visits by American and British politicians.

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"But there is no escaping the brutal truth of life. Fifteen hundred civilian deaths a month - and they barely register in the UK headlines. The Lib Dems opposed the intervention in Iraq and were right to do so."

Switching to the summer conflict in Lebanon, Mr Moore said the "aggression" of the Israeli military reaction was "outrageous. It was clearly disproportionate and it amounted to collective punishment.

"It was a clear breach of international law, and the collateral damage has spread further than the Middle East.

"In the process, we have seen our own country diminished and our diplomacy rejected.

"How did it come to this - that a British prime minister reduces himself to being the advance party for the US Secretary of State in the Middle East? That a British prime minister is told by the deputy general secretary of the United Nations that he should take a back seat in peace talks?

"These last few years have been a dismal period in British foreign policy."

He said as the UK approached the post-Blair period, the country must re-establish its credentials internationally by rebalancing its foreign policy.

"The relationship with the United States will always be of primary importance but increasingly the world needs a European voice, and one with a European accent," said Mr Moore.

"Britain must, and can be, a key player in the common foreign and security policy of Europe."

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