Hurd urges UN to take 'imperial' role

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The Independent Online
The United Nations has to gear itself up to take on an 'imperial role', usurping national sovereignty and taking over as controlling power when governments collapse, as in Somalia and Cambodia, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. Mr Hurd, who is to address the General Assembly of the UN in New York on Tuesday, drew attention to what he called 'a new phase in the world's history' during an interview with The Independent.

He said: 'When bits of Africa collapsed in chaos in the last century, colonial powers came in and there was the scramble for Africa. But that's not on; they're not going to do that again, and therefore it is only going to be the UN.

'But it has got to be supported. The UN is us, the UN is the British, American, Russian taxpayer, and the UN will need troops.'

Mr Hurd said: 'It is putting UN blue on the map. It is an imperial role, but it's more a mandate, isn't it? It is inevitable, in Somalia, when you've got to that stage. The secret is preventing it getting to that stage.

'But when they're right at rock-bottom, I think the UN will have to do that. And only the UN can do it.'

The Foreign Secretary said: 'The more effectively it can move in and the earlier it can move in to prevent things getting to the stage where countries are run by corrupt war-lords, as in Somalia, the easier and the better. It's becoming clear now that we're at a new stage in the way the world's going to have to run its affairs.

'The Cold War was dangerous, but predictable. Under its shadow, other conflicts were few and far between. They existed, for example in Cambodia, and they were terrible, but on the whole, because of the danger of a nuclear clash between the superpowers, situations didn't arise where the superpowers got into serious conflict.'

But he warned that since the break-up of the former Soviet Union - leaving three or four 'crisis areas' - the United States was the lone superpower and it had no wish to become 'policeman of the world'. Mr Hurd said that during the Cold War UN machinery had 'rusted'; it was short of money and did not have the organisation to run a series of peace-keeping forces. 'So they're having to build the car as they drive and this is difficult,' he added.

Mr Hurd stressed that intervention, or interim UN takeover, could take place only 'in cases of total breakdown'. But, citing countries like Sudan, he said: 'I think that in the effort to avert total breakdown, it's increasingly legitimate for the UN and its members and the European Community to talk to governments about human rights, because abuse of human rights is one cause of breakdown.'