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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Duncan Smith: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way on that specific point?

Mr. Straw: I give way to my hon. Friend, but will come back to the hon. Gentleman.

Jeremy Corbyn: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. He referred to national missile defence. Does he accept that NMD undermines all the nuclear disarmament treaties of the past 40 years? Would it not be far better if Britain were to use its position of some influence over the United States to say that it is a totally unacceptable development that can only lead to an escalation of an arms race around the world, rather than an opportunity for peace?

Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I am grateful to him for his congratulations and look forward to having many debates with him, as we had when I was Home Secretary.

Jeremy Corbyn: There will be.

Mr. Straw: I know, and I look forward to them. However, I do not share my hon. Friend's view on this

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matter. I am glad that President Bush made it absolutely clear that there is a process of consultation. It is now accepted by all the parties, not only at the Gothenburg summit between the EU and the US but at the NATO Council on Wednesday, where there was an even larger number of member states. The United States has raised its concern, which it believes is shared with the rest of the world, that the strategic threat has changed over the past 30 years. I think--my view is shared by our partners--that we should sit down and engage with the United States about those concerns and the potential solutions to them.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The right hon. Gentleman selectively quoted the President of the United States, but fell into the trap of failing to recognise what he was saying. The right hon. Gentleman said that the EU force--the Euro army or rapid reaction force, whatever one calls it--was fully integrated into NATO. It is not integrated at all. It has separate command structures, separate command headquarters and separate planning. There is no plan to integrate it, and there is no way that anything has been agreed to that extent. He knows that what the American President said was a wish list and is not happening.

Mr. Straw: First, the words that I used were "properly integrated with NATO", which is different. I chose my words with care--[Interruption.] No, those were the words that I used. If the hon. Gentleman wants to have a go at me, I suggest that he quotes me accurately.

Secondly, of course I quoted selectively from the President's speech, because I would have been here for quite some time had I quoted the lot. I had the benefit of listening to every single word of President George W. Bush's address to the NATO Council and I can tell the hon. Gentleman--it is on the record--that he was very supportive of the initiative and recognised the value not only to Europe but to the United States and the alliance.

I have given way a number of times, as is my wont. The price that I pay for that is that I now need to make progress on the remaining issues.

On climate change, there is a clear disagreement between all EU member states and the United States. That was acknowledged in the communique. However, the communique and the discussions paved the way for dialogue about how to deal with that difference, and secured an important commitment that the US will participate constructively in the climate talks in Bonn.

On trade, the EU and the US reached a joint commitment to launch an ambitious liberalising world trade round at Doha in Qatar in November.

There is no time today for a comprehensive survey of our policies towards the wider world. For example, we have revitalised our efforts to promote trade and inward investment by creating British Trade International, and now by appointing a Minister for Trade, my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Symons, who reports both to me and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Nor is there time to do justice to the range of close relationships that we maintain with key partners such as Japan, China, Russia, India, Canada or Brazil. We have important interests, and are actively promoting them, in vital regions such as Asia and Latin America.

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Let me focus on three such regions where we hope that diplomatic efforts will pay dividends: south-east Europe, the middle east and Africa. We have been watching recent developments in Macedonia with grave concern. We are determined that tensions there will not drag the region back into ethnic violence--if that is possible.

Extremists, of whatever affiliation, should be in no doubt about the UK Government's resolve, or that of the EU and NATO. Macedonia's Government of national unity has our wholehearted support and the full backing of the EU and NATO. Discussions last week with my EU and NATO colleagues showed a common determination not to see Macedonia descend into chaos and bloodshed. The chance for a lasting peace is still there. We want to see the inter-ethnic dialogue launched by Macedonia's President succeed.

I commend the great activity by Javier Solana and Lord Robertson in shuttling to and from the region. I intend to review our position on Macedonia next week when I shall visit that area.

The middle east is another area that is suffering the costs of great conflict. It was the main subject of discussion yesterday evening with Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General. As everybody knows, there have been severe setbacks over the past year and, once again, violence prevails. However, there is no future, no security, in violence.

The Mitchell report shows the way forward. The Palestinians should make a 100 per cent. effort to halt violence from the extremists and Israel should lift the closures of the occupied territories and freeze the building of settlements.

Israel is entitled to its security, both now and in the future, but the only way to achieve it is through peace and that will come only through a political process that implements "land for peace", brings an end to occupation and allows the emergence of a viable, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state, committed to co-existence with Israel. That may now seem to many a distant prospect, but no other vision for the region offers any lasting hope.

Elsewhere in the middle east, working for peace and stability means continuing to stand up to the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:

He has made it clear that Africa will be a priority for him personally and for the Government.

Africa's problems are well documented, but there is hope. In Africa itself, more and more Governments are showing the determination to make things better. President Thabo Mbeki, who visited Britain last week, symbolises that African renaissance, just as South Africa symbolises the growth of democratic pluralism. Nigeria, Senegal, Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Mali and Ghana, among others, are now following that path.

We can make a real difference. I pay a great tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. I greatly admired her work when I was less involved with it as Home Secretary. In the two short weeks in which I have been Foreign Secretary, I have been struck by the degree to which this country's reputation has been enhanced by her indefatigable work around the globe, but particularly in Africa. It has been backed by the additional resources that the Government have put into international development.

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We can make a real difference, and we have proved that in Sierra Leone. Our intervention last year was a clear demonstration of our commitment to peace, stability and freedom. We are now beginning to achieve our objective of rebuilding an effective, democratic state in Sierra Leone.

Military intervention is not, and cannot be, the only policy instrument at our disposal. Effective development assistance is another. Under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, development assistance to Africa has doubled in the last four years to £600 million. There is generous debt relief; help with democratic reform; action in the United Nations; and a thickening of our bilateral relationships across the continent by expanding our network of posts. This year, we shall open new embassies in Mali and Eritrea.

Last year, no new major conflicts broke out in Africa and there were no successful military coups, but there are palpably no grounds for complacency. We continuously seek to improve our efforts there. This year, for the first time, we are pooling Government resources.

Our new conflict prevention fund for sub-Saharan Africa will bring programme funding together with spending on military operations and peacekeeping in budgets jointly managed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence. That will strengthen the way in which those Departments work together and deliver more effective British interventions overseas. It will allow us to focus on regional priorities, such as developing African capacity for peacekeeping and ensuring that valuable natural resources, such as diamonds and oil, are used to fuel prosperity, not conflict. Our policies will work best when we work in genuine partnership with African Governments, who in turn show a genuine commitment to improving the lot of their people.

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