PRESIDENTIAL CRISIS: Blair's peace troops pledge

The United Nations
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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR pledged yesterday to sign an agreement with the United Nations within six months to formalise the provision of British military resources, including British troops, for UN military actions around the globe to resolve regional tensions and deliver humanitarian assistance.

The offer, outlined by the Prime Minister at the annual UN General Assembly in New York, amounts to a powerful reaffirmation of British commitment to the UN. It could provide the seed for a standing rapid-reaction force permanently at the UN's disposal and consisting of troops from multiple nations. Britain is the first country to offer to forge such a relationship with the organisation.

Mr Blair, who later attended a seminar with President Bill Clinton at New York University on the so-called "Third Way" model of new-left government, also appealed for a recasting of the world's financial bodies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The offer of help with UN conflict resolution will be especially welcomed by the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan. Calls by the UN for some form of standing army arrangement have met fierce opposition in the US Congress on the grounds that it would give the UN too much unilateral authority.

Mr Blair underlined the need for the body to react more swiftly to regional tensions when they arise and to avoid becoming ensnared in conflicts that have already flared as happened in Bosnia.

"The UN needs to act fast. Fast action can prevent conflict escalating, underpin a fragile truce and save lives," he declared.

The Prime Minister said the recent defence review in Britain was "transforming our ability to contribute to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations: more and better equipped rapid reaction forces; additional strategic lift; and better logistics capability".

He went on: "I announce today that within six months we will conclude a specific agreement with the UN to ensure that it can make rapid use of what we have to offer when it's needed."

While offering little concrete detail, the Prime Minister said it was time, meanwhile, to take a "fresh look at the international financial architecture".

Britain is due to begin discussions on reforming the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank with American officials in Washington later this week.

Blair and the IMF, page 16