Thursday, January 8, 2009

UK opposition leader slams world leaders over Gaza

UK opposition leader slams world leaders over Gaza

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Britain has slammed world leaders for allowing the violence currently taking place in the Middle East.

'The past two weeks have been a telling indictment of the international community,' Nick Clegg said. 'We have an outgoing US president sanctioning Israel's military response and an aching silence from the president-elect. We have a European Union encumbered by clumsy decision-making and confused messages,' he said.

'And at home (in Britain) we have a prime minister talking like an accountant about aid earmarked for Gaza without once saying anything meaningful about the conflict's origins. Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, has made British foreign policy effectively subservient to Washington. But waiting for a change of heart in Washington is intolerable given the human cost,' Clegg said.

The leader of Britain's third largest political party said Israel has every right to defend itself, but its approach is self-defeating. 'The overwhelming use of force, the unacceptable loss of civilian lives, is radicalising moderate opinion among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world,' he said. 'Anger in the West Bank will make it virtually impossible for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, to continue to talk to Israeli ministers.'

The 42-year old Clegg, regarded as one of Britain's mot prominent up-and-coming politicans, said the UK should consider banning sales of military weapons to Israel, and the European Union should consider sanctions against the Jewish state. He also said it was about time British Prime Minister Gordon Brown got more involved.

'Brown must stop sitting on his hands,' Clegg said. 'He must condemn unambiguously Israel's tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas's rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel's biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community.'

'Brown must also halt Britain's arms exports to Israel, and persuade our EU counterparts to do the same,' Clegg continued, in remarks published in the London newspaper, The Guardian. 'The government's own figures show Britain is selling more and more weapons to Israel, despite the questions about the country's use of force. In 2007, our government approved £6 million of arms exports. In 2008, it licensed sales 12 times as fast: £20m in the first three months alone.'

'There is a strong case that, given the Gaza conflict, any military exports contravene EU licensing criteria,' he said. 'Reports, though denied, that Israel is using illegal cluster munitions and white phosphorus should heighten our caution. I want an immediate suspension of all arms exports from the EU, but if that cannot be secured, Brown must act unilaterally,' Clegg said.

'The world's leaders must accept that their response to the election of Hamas has been a strategic failure,' he added. 'The removal of the EU presence on the Egypt border in response to Hamas's election, for example, has made it easier for the rockets being fired at Israel to get into Gaza in the first place. An EU mission with a serious mandate and backing from Egypt and Israel would help Israel deal proportionately and effectively with the threat from weapons smuggling,' Mr Clegg said.

'Attempts to divide and rule the Palestinians by isolating and punishing Gaza will not succeed. To secure peace in the Middle East, Hamas must turn its back on terrorism, and help create Palestinian unity. Only unified leadership in the West Bank and Gaza can offer Israel the security guarantees that it rightly seeks,' he said.

'My proposals to stay Israel's hand in this conflict may be unwelcome to some, but they have the country's long term interest at heart,' Clegg said. 'No terrorist organisation has ever been defeated by bombs alone. Only a new approach will secure lasting peace for Israel itself.'

Tuesday's comments form Clegg were not the first from him about the current crisis Gaza. Last week when he called on the European Union to suspend the new co-operation agreement between the EU and Israel, which will give Israel access to EU funding programmes which in some areas are only enjoyed by full members of the EU, te opposition leader said, 'For too long the EU has been an economic giant which acts as a political pygmy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'

“EU Foreign Ministers must immediately suspend the proposed new agreement with Israel. The deal cannot proceed until there is a transformation of the conditions on the ground in Gaza,' he said.

Clegg has been Leader of the Liberal Democrats since December 2007, and is a member of Britain's Privy Counci. He is a former member of the European Parliament, and speaks six languages.

**Berita di copy n paste dari Big News

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