Rifkind points to lessons of Bosnia

A strong appeal for preventive international diplomacy to avoid future Bosnias and a demand for action to remedy the faults in United Nations peace-keeping will be made by the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, in a speech to the UN General Assembly this week.

Mr Rifkind will say the UN cannot fight wars and that the enforcement of peace is best left to "coalitions of the willing" under UN authority. According to a draft text of his speech, he will tell the General Assembly that its operation in Bosnia aroused "unreal expectations" and, in an apparent reference to futile UN resolutions on the Balkan conflict, he says the Security Council should sometimes stay silent rather then issue "unrealistic pronouncements".

Admitting that much of the destruction in the former Yugoslavia "might have been prevented by closer international attention", Mr Rifkind is to argue for a concerted effort to develop a mechanism for diplomacy aimed at averting crises. Britain and France propose the use in conflict resolution of diplomats, soldiers and academics working alongside aid workers and UN mediators.

Adding his voice to complaints by the US, Mr Rifkind also wants to see a thorough reform of the UN bureaucracy. "Recent experience has shown the UN is in some ways ill-fitted for its tasks," he says, "underpowered in some areas, like peace-keeping and preventive diplomacy; but still bloated in other parts of the system."

While welcoming work "to reduce waste in New York", the Foreign Secretary will tell the UN that it must end "fraud and mismanagement" if it is to achieve credibility and justify its receipt of public funds.

Mr Rifkind will also support the admission of Germany and Japan to permanent membership of the Security Council alongside Britain, France, the US, Russia and China.

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