MANCHESTER, England — Treasury chief Gordon Brown, replacing Tony Blair as leader of Britain’s Labour Party, vowed Sunday that the country’s foreign policy will recognize that defeating terrorism “involves more than military force.”
Brown, who will succeed Blair as prime minister on Wednesday, also pledged sweeping domestic reforms to tackle poverty and improve health care. The woman elected Sunday as his deputy, Harriet Harman, has called for the government to apologize for mistakes over the Iraq war.
“Our foreign policy in the years ahead will reflect the truth that to isolate and defeat terrorist extremism now involves more than military force,” Brown told a conference of party members in Manchester, northern England. “It is also a struggle of ideas and ideals.”
Brown said key to that work would “be what becomes daily more urgent — a Middle East settlement upholding a two state solution” for Israel and the Palestinians.
He said Britain would “learn lessons that need to be learned,” but would continue to take “tough decisions to ensure the long term defense and security of our country.”
Brown will give his “best in the service of the country,” Blair told the conference, formally handing over power. “I know his best is as good as it gets.”
The men vied to lead the party in 1994 — but Brown was persuaded to stand aside, sparking an often turbulent relationship at the pinnacle of British politics for 10 years. But Brown later praised Blair’s achievements, including bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
The 56-year-old Scot faced no challenge from fellow legislators to replace Blair.
Protesting 'warmongering' Blair
Several hundred people gathered close to the conference for an anti-war protest. “We are here to wave goodbye to the most dangerous and warmongering prime minister in modern British history,” said Stop The War coalition chairman Andrew Murray.
Brown has dismissed claims he would seek to loosen ties with President Bush to appease rank-and-file party members angered over the Iraq war, saying it is in Britain’s national interest to have a strong relationship with the U.S. president.
Britain’s Sunday Times reported Brown is weighing a reversal of one of his predecessor’s most contentious policies — planning to restore the right of protesters to demonstrate freely outside Parliament.
The move would scrap legislation passed in July 2005 which bans unauthorized protests within half a mile of Parliament.
Brown and his new party deputy will likely face their first national election in 2009 or 2010.
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