Foreshadowing reforms to both the UN Security Council and Nato, Mr Blair said in a wide-ranging speech in Chicago that international actions needed to be taken at an earlier stage, as Kosovo demonstrated. "The most pressing foreign policy problem we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should get actively involved in other people's conflicts," he said.
Non-interference had long been considered an important principle of international order and it was not one that Britain wanted to jettison too readily.
"But the principle of non- interference must be qualified in important respects. Acts of genocide can never be a purely internal matter. When oppression produces massive flows of refugees which unsettle neighbouring countries then they can properly be described as threats to international peace and security."
Mr Blair appeared to suggest greater intervention by Nato adopting a role as global policeman, which will be resisted by unaligned states, Russia and China. Sources close to Mr Blair said he was not proposing to change the system under which China and Russia routinely vetoed Nato action.
But Mr Blair, and it is believed President Clinton, have become increasingly frustrated with the reluctance of Nato to act, sometimes until it is too late. Mr Blair put forward five main tests for intervention: Are we sure of our case? Have we exhausted all diplomatic options? Are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake? Are we prepared for the long term? And do we have national interests involved?
He said: "In the past we have talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over - better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers."Reuse content