World leaders reject Blair's move over military action  

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Tony Blair was rebuffed yesterday over attempts to give international backing to military action to topple the brutal leaders of failed states like Iraq.

A summit of 14 world leaders refused to endorse a joint statement which proposed waiving the legal ban on intervening in foreign states if governments failed to protect their citizens from repression or "state failure".

The original draft, revealed by The Independent on Sunday, said: "Where a population is suffering serious harm as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect." But the passage was cut from the final communiqué amid fears that it could have provided justification for the war in Iraq and give carte blanche to Western powers to intervene in countries around the world. The final document instead stressed "the crucial importance of international co-operation in responding to humanitarian crises". It said: "We are clear that the UN Security Council remains the sole body to authorise global action in dealing with humanitarian crises of this kind."

The disputed passage was taken from a report by the Canada-based International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Instead, the leaders said it was "a valuable contribution to the ongoing and necessary debate within the UN on how better to deal with these new and emerging challenges."

Speaking at the end of a three-day Progressive Governance Summit in Surrey, Mr Blair refused yesterday to link proposals for reforming international law with the war in Iraq, but called for new international "rules" to govern intervention in failing states. He said: "The differences over Iraq are well known. The real issue is how do we, in circumstances where there is brutal repression of people by a particular regime, how do we offer them support and protection and what are the rules, because people want to know that they are operating in a system with rules. This is work actually irrespective of any particular situation which has been taken forward under the auspices of the UN. I think it's important we keep it there, so this is an important contribution to the debate."

The argument over how to police the world's most unstable countries will dominate discussions about the future of the United Nations in the wake of the war in Iraq. Foreign Office officials have started work on proposals for reform, due to be launched by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, in the autumn, amid concern in Britain and America that the UN is unwieldy and unsuited to the challenges of the 21st century. Proposals being considered include expanding the permanent membership of the UN Security Council and streamlining the organisation's bureaucracy.

The leaders, including the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, said that "the global challenges of poverty, protecting the environment and human rights, promoting development and peace and combating terrorism require a step change in the confidence and capacities of our global institutions. These must be based on respect for international law and founded on multilateralism."