Miliband asserts his authority and insists US will still be our main ally
DAVID Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, insisted yesterday that the United States would remain Britain's main ally, as he issued a coded warning to government colleagues not to interfere in foreign policy.
His move was part of the government's continuing effort to kill off speculation that Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, is preparing to distance Britain from the US and President George Bush.
The speculation started last week when Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary, used a speech in Washington to call for a more "multilateral" foreign policy that put greater emphasis on economic development than military might.
And it was fuelled by Mark Malloch-Brown, the former United Nations official now serving as a junior Foreign Office minister in the House of Lords, who has been a persistent critic of the Bush administration. On Saturday, he told a newspaper Mr Brown and Mr Bush would not be "joined at the hip", as he said the president and Tony Blair had been.
But Mr Miliband made clear Britain's relationship with the US was unchanged. "We have a very clear view in the government - it's been the case for many years - that our bilateral relationship with the United States is the most important bilateral relationship we have," he said.
In a BBC interview, he said pointedly that neither Mr Alexander nor Lord Malloch-Brown were authorised to drop hints or send signals about UK foreign policy. "We are not into the game of hints," Mr Miliband said. "If we want to say something, we will say it and we will say it in plain terms and you will hear it from the Prime Minister and you will hear it from myself."
The Foreign Secretary's rebuke was aimed mainly at Lord Malloch-Brown, the minister for Africa, Asia and the UN. But he is also said to have been upset that Mr Alexander ranged so widely into foreign policy in his Washington speech, although the address had been cleared by Downing Street in advance.
Later this month, Mr Brown will fly to the US capital to underline his message on transatlantic relations, but not before he has also visited Berlin and Paris.
Despite Mr Miliband's efforts to clarify the position, the Conservatives yesterday said Mr Brown had to do more to prove his support for Washington or risk damaging the special relationship.
"What we are getting are some very confusing signals coming out, and I think Gordon Brown needs to put his foot down and determine which line it is," Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said. "Is it that we are not joined at the hip with the US or is it that it is our most important strategic partner, because it's not good for the UK if the US is unclear exactly what the British government's position is."
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