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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Cook warns Tories over race campaign
Inverness conference
Robin Cook criticised Mr Hague's policy in Inverness
By BBC News Online's Brian Ponsonby in Inverness

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has accused Conservative leader William Hague of exploiting fear and prejudice against foreigners in a desperate bid to attract voters.

Speaking at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Inverness, Mr Cook said the Conservatives pandered to a "backwoods" mentality, which betrayed Britain's position as a leader in Europe.


We will take no lectures from a politician and a party who have turned propaganda into a high art form

Michael Ancram
He also urged delegates to embrace what he called Labour's "tradition of internationalism" and avoid using the word "foreigner" as a term of abuse.

Mr Cook said the Labour government had made many advances in foreign policy since coming to power and had been instrumental in bringing about positive change in Burma, East Timor and Serbia.

During his address to conference, Mr Cook attacked William Hague's recent "foreign lands" speech in Harrogate.

In that speech Mr Hague said a Labour victory would alienate British people in their own country by leading to the abolition of the pound and more powers being transferred to Brussels.

Mr Cook attacked the Conservative leader's stance and accused him of ignoring the traditional British values of tolerance and respect for different ethnic backgrounds.

"I have an appeal to William Hague in the forthcoming election," said Mr Cook.

"Don't try and fight that election by exploiting the worst instincts of fear and prejudice."

Scaremongering

But Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram criticised Mr Cook's remarks.

"Not content to promote a cynical electioneering Budget, Labour now seeks to cynically foster a climate of scaremongering," he said.

"The Conservative Party stands for tolerance, and our commitments on asylum are simple, and based on common sense."

He added: "We will take no lectures from a politician and a party who have turned propaganda into a high art form and who on today's performance show every intention of doing so again."

Robin Cook
Robin Cook: Accused Tories of "backwoods" mentality
Meanwhile, the foreign secretary said Labour policy had helped bring about important advancements in human rights in East Timor and Burma.

He also said the government had played an important role in the downfall of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and would continue in its efforts to have him prosecuted for war crimes.

But Mr Cook said that Milosevic could have been removed from power earlier if the former Conservative government had taken a tougher stance.

Fresh recruitment

He told the conference that since Labour came to power, more opportunities had arisen in the Foreign Office for ethnic minorities.

To loud applause, Mr Cook told delegates that staff recruited to the Foreign Office from ethnic communities had increased by 50% in the past four years.

He added that last year Britain had become the first Western country to send a consular delegation to the Haj religious festival in Mecca and this year every member of that delegation would be a British Muslim.

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