Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Oh No, Not Again - 25th March 2003, 21.27

One would wish that Blair may have learned his lesson from the previous diplomatic fiasco at the United Nations. Prepare for Round Two. The Prime Minister confirmed today that he would be seeking resolutions on both humanitarian aid to Iraq and approval of any postwar administration constructed by the coalition.

The first is in respect of humanitarian assistance we need a resolution through on that and I am confident that we should be able to secure that. There is going to be a debate about the UN resolution that then governs the post-Saddam civil administration in Iraq. We are quite clear that any such administration has to be endorsed by the United Nations, it is important, and that is exactly what we said at the summit in the Azores. Now the details of that we will discuss with allies within the UN and with others. There may be certain diplomatic difficulties but I think in the end people will come together and realise that it is important that any post-Saddam Iraqi government has the broadest possible representation, is respectful of human rights, is careful to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq, and the important thing after all the diplomatic divisions that there have been is that the international community comes back together, and I hope that it will.

There were further questions probing Blair on the published differences between himself and the US administration on postwar Iraq but he brushed them aside. The other interesting passage to come out of the interview was Britain's relationship with Europe. The PM was undiplomatic:

There is going to be at the end of this, and there should be.This is perhaps a slightly undiplomatic thing to say at this stage, but let me say it nonetheless. There is at the end of this going to have to be a discussion, and indeed a reckoning, about the relations between America and Europe.

But nevertheless he is still trying to square the circle:

Because I have no doubt at all, I know I have said this so many times to you, but I do believe that it is so important, if Europe and America split apart from each other, the loser is not going to be Britain. We will retain our position in Europe and we will retain our strong position with the United States, the loser will be the wider world because on every single issue that comes up there will be rival poles of power to which people can gravitate.

This is a recognition, perhaps understated, that the present rift could prove permanent but Blair is unwilling state that this would have institutional consequences in Europe. He repeats the mantra that Britain will remain both Atlanticist and European but the emphasis is firmly on the former than the latter. This indicates that Blair is aware of Britain's distance from Europe and is not unduly worried. Perhaps a positive hint.


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