UK Politics

UK must restore world reputation, Nick Clegg tells UN

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Media captionNick Clegg: "Freedom cannot be commanded into existence"

The UK must restore its reputation in the world, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told the UN general assembly in New York.

He said tolerance and fairness were in Britain's "national DNA".

The UK had learned "the hard way" that democracy "cannot be created by diktat", he added, in comments likely to be seen as referring to Iraq.

He also said the UN needed a "radical overhaul" to tackle the international challenges it faced.

'Hard-headed'

Mr Clegg told the UN: "Britain will stand as a beacon of democracy, freedom and law.

"Many of the values that must be at the heart of a new global settlement are in our national DNA - tolerance, fairness, democracy, equality before the law.

"But our approach will also be hard-headed and realistic. In recent years, we have learned - sometimes the hard way - that democracy cannot be created by diktat, freedom commanded into existence.

"The new coalition government, now five months old, will restore Britain's international reputation by pursuing a hard-headed foreign policy based on liberal values."

Mr Clegg said taking action on international challenges required multilateral co-operation, but a "radical overhaul" of the UN was needed to achieve those ends.

He called for the expansion of the UN Security Council with permanent seats for Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, as well as representation for Africa.

Mr Clegg said the financial crisis, along with the collapse of the climate change talks in Copenhagen and the stalling of the Doha trade round, has put in question the effectiveness of multilateral approaches.

"Too many nations and international institutions have been too reticent about promoting enlightened, human values," he said.

"We need to inject new life into our institutions, and new confidence into the expression of our ideals. Reform is essential."

Mr Clegg also called for strong political leadership on Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process, and for the UN to improve its response to what he described as the "outrageous abuse of democracy" in Burma.

'Productive' meeting

On Thursday, Mr Clegg travelled to Washington for talks at the White House with US Vice-President Joe Biden.

They were said to have discussed Afghanistan, UK and US domestic policies, and the floods in Pakistan.

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, was "warm and productive".

The talks had been due to finish much earlier, so much so that Mr Clegg missed a scheduled appointment with Senator John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate's foreign relations committee.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Clegg said the two nations had a "terrifically important relationship".

"It ebbs and flows over time but it is hugely important and it is built to last."

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