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Hurd calls for 'old-fashioned diplomacy'

THE Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday that preventive, old-fashioned diplomacy should be used more frequently to stem the growing demands for peace-keeping and humanitarian interventions which run the risk of overloading the world organisation.

Speaking on behalf of the European Community, Mr Hurd said the best way of preventing these demands for intervention from getting out of hand was to prevent the underlying conflicts through diplomacy. 'Diplomacy is unfashionable in the world of knee-jerk reaction and the dogmatic soundbite on television,' he said.

He went on to welcome the ambitious 'Agenda for Peace' proposals put forward by the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In them, Mr Boutros-Ghali said that preventive diplomacy, peace-keeping, peace-making, and what he called peace-building, should be the cornerstones of the organisation in future.

'Preventive diplomacy is quicker, more helpful to peoples about to be embroiled in conflict than the most successful peace-keeping or peace-making operation which follows the outbreak of violence,' Mr Hurd said.

Mr Hurd's complimentary words to the Secretary-General indicated that the row which erupted in July and which saw Mr Boutros-Ghali criticise the 'Eurocentric' attitude of the Security Council towards 'the rich man's war' in Yugoslavia had blown over.

Departing from his prepared speech, Mr Hurd complimented the Secretary- General on his far-reaching plans for the future of the UN and said it was like trying to build a car while driving it at the same time. But the hallmark of Mr Hurd's speech was caution, reflecting the slow going in the process of building EC political co-operation on important foreign policy issues.

While George Bush could make sweeping new proposals that would revitalise UN peace-keeping at a time when it is at full stretch - with 40,000 soldiers deployed in more than 12 operations around the world - Mr Hurd, on behalf of the EC, could only welcome the President's 'bold initiatives' of offering US military 'lift, logistics, communications and intelligence capabilities to support peace-keeping operations'.

Mr Hurd agreed that the 'preventive deployment of troops might take place to deter aggression or conflict between states,' but he warned of difficulties in timing the dispatch of such a force and said it should be done on a case-by-case basis. The Bush proposals went beyond peace-keeping, saying that the Security Council should become a key forum for 'non-proliferation enforcement' to stop the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons. Mr Hurd could only welcome the recent agreement on a chemical weapons convention and say that 'we must prevent the proliferation of armaments'.

Mr Hurd also spoke of sending troops to countries such as Somalia, whenever there was an internal crisis. But he did not repeat his remarks, made in an interview over the weekend, to the effect that the UN needed to take on a new 'imperial' role when countries fall apart.

Later in his speech, Mr Hurd appeared to reject a proposal by the Secretary-General that countries should earmark forces, on a permanent basis, to take part in 'peace enforcement' missions, under the command and control of the UN military staff committee, rather than under national command, as was the case in the Gulf war. He said, however, that British and other EC military officials would be discussing stand-by forces for traditional peace-keeping missions.

In other remarks directed more at Mr Boutros-Ghali than other member states, the Foreign Secretary said that the EC was paying more than its share of the UN peace-keeping budget (41 per cent of contributions so far this year) and that it was also making a substantial military contribution.

Mr Hurd also cautioned against overloading the UN system too quickly at every example of 'man's inhumanity to man'. Before getting involved, just because 'something must be done', Mr Hurd said that countries 'should realise where that impulse leads us'. Armed forces, trained for battle, would have to be restructured and retrained in the ways of peace-keeping and, Mr Hurd said, it would involve a huge increase in the funds needed to pay for the UN and its myriad humanitarian agencies.