Blair affirms interventionist stance

Tony Blair today threatened the Sudanese government with sanctions if it fails to halt the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

In a keynote speech on the final leg of his African tour, the outgoing prime minister called on the west to present Sudanese President Bashir with a choice.

“Engage with us on a solution. Or if you reject responsibility for the people of Darfur, then we will table a vote on sanctions.”

Arriving in South Africa, he said western nations have a moral duty to intervene and make the world better, and international relations can no longer be led by a nation’s self-interest.

“I believe in the power of political action to make the world better and the moral obligation to use it,” Mr Blair said.

Acknowledging the strongly divided opinions his foreign policy has provoked, Mr Blair said it was easy for people to “mock the pretensions of an interventionist policy”.

However, he implored people to consider the alternative, arguing that doing nothing led to the Rwandan genocide and spread of Aids and HIV across Africa.

But the Liberal Democrats have accused the prime minister of trying to rewrite his legacy on foreign policy.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said: “The interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone marked the high point of the government’s foreign policy, but the success of these operations has been completely overshadowed by the prime minister’s disastrous misjudgement over Iraq.

“It is the Middle East that has seen the devastating consequences of his unilateral interventionist policy and this, more than anything else, is Mr Blair’s defining legacy.”

Mr Blair called on African nations and the west to work together to choose the “right path” for the continent. He said Ghana could provide a model for economic growth, while in contrast Zimbabwe and Sudan have “bad government and violent oppression”.

He said: “Wealthy nations and Africa both face a choice:

“Us, as to how far we help Africa to take the right path. Africa as to which path to take.”

Mr Blair will meet with the G8 in Germany next week in one of his last acts as prime minister.

He insisted this G8 meeting must be bolder than the last – speaking as international aid agencies increasingly question the impact of the G8’s promises in 2005.

“Progress does not come from the cautious. It isn’t born of the status quo. It tends to challenge conventional wisdom,” Mr Blair insisted.

“It rarely is the product of refraining; nearly always a consequence of sustained action against the odds. It accepts the pain of transition. It never yields to the notion of “the way things are.”

Mr Blair was speaking as Chatham House release a new report criticising “pop star politics”, which saw figures such as Bono and Bob Geldof increasingly respected by the G8.

Writing in The World Today, Chatham House’s monthly magazine, James Panton explores the dangers of taking the lead from Geldof and Bono, arguing “pop star politics” takes governments further from the sort of politics that could make poverty history.

Although Gordon Brown has promised to renounce celebrity as prime minister, Mr Panton claims it appears “unlikely that he will do anything other than sign up wholeheartedly to the celebrity politics of Live Earth.”

The forthcoming Live Earth concert, organised by Al Gore to raise awareness of climate change, has not really educated people on the issues surrounding change and instead risks closing off debate, he concluded.