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A Conversation with David Miliband

Speaker: David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Member of Parliament for South Shields, United Kingdom
Presider: Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International
September 26, 2008

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British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told an audience of Council on Foreign Relations members and reporters on Friday that opportunities for the West to have an impact on the world's diplomatic agenda must be seized now or global power shifts will make them impossible. The next U.S. president, Milliband said, will be the last one who can work with the European Union to set "an inclusive global agenda including the rising powers." Eight years from now, he said, "it's easy to imagine that it will be practically impossible."

Questioned by moderator Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, Miliband identified Iran's nuclear program, Afghanistan, Pakistan, climate change, and the global financial crisis as among the most difficult problems facing the world. All of them, he said, involved to some extent the ongoing debate over the rights of international organizations or coalitions to impinge on national sovereignty.

Miliband asserted that he agreed with both U.S. presidential candidates that more troops in Afghanistan might help stabilize that country. But, even as he defended Britain's commitment of troops there as part of a larger NATO force, he said "more troops is not the answer," but rather a part of an eventual answer. "We're never going to have the level of troops in Afghanistan that the Soviets had, and they were not able to subjugate the people of Afghanistan," he said. "The key variable is building up the Afghan National Army."

The foreign secretary also took issue with reports which claimed Britain was pushing for a one-year delay in the prosecution of Sudan's president, who faces the prospect of indictment by the International Criminal Court. On Iran, he insisted that, in talks with Tehran on its nuclear program, "the suspension of the existing program is the prerequisite to serious discussions" about any international consortium that might be able to enrich nuclear material for an Iranian civilian nuclear program.

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