Last Word: David Miliband

It was a busy week for David Miliband, Great Britain's youthful new foreign secretary . On Tuesday, the 42-year-old addressed the Labour Party conference, acknowledging the successes and "scars" from 10 years of Labour government and saying that Britain must strengthen its links with the United States and the international community to address the worlds' problems. Europe, he added, should avoid institutional navel gazing and look "to the problems beyond its borders that define insecurity within our borders." Two days later he addressed the U.N. General Assembly, warning that rising inequality is both "morally offensive" and "dangerous" to global stability and prosperity. In a discussion with NEWSWEEK editors, he elaborated on his view that three key issues—inequality, terror and climate change—are threats the world must come to terms with. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: How would you rate Europe ' s performance in coming to grips with the internal security threat from terrorism? It seems there is a wide variation in the way governments are acknowledging that threat.
Miliband : It is true that it's very patchy. These German and Danish arrests [of alleged Al Qaeda cells] are interesting because on the security problem they've really done very well. The French have always had a very different approach to the integration of Muslim communities. You go through the suburbs of Paris and you really worry about the ghettoization and the problems it is posing. However, you haven't got French suicide bombers, and we've got British suicide bombers. So there's a dose of humility that goes along with it. In Europe I'm now saying to people, "Look, whatever you've thought about Iraq in 2002 and 2003, you've got to get into a different way [of thinking] now." The French foreign minister has been to Baghdad, the Swedish foreign minister has been to Baghdad. But there are some leading European commissioners who haven't. I just said "Look, go to Baghdad." It's a political statement and gives political credibility to the process.

There are suggestions that U.S.-British relations are much cooler under Gordon Brown than they were under Tony Blair.
I don't accept the "cooler" description. Gordon is a different person, but he is passionate about the transatlantic relationship. He engaged deeply with President Bush at Camp David. I said, at the party conference, and got applause for it, that this is a relationship based on shared values. People clapped, partly because they believe in the shared values.

At the party conference, you seemed keen to draw a line under the Blair foreign policy and make it very clear things were different now.
What I said was that 2007 is not 1997. There are different challenges. Global terrorism did not feature in the way it does now. Global inequality did not feature. Remember inequality between nations is falling and inequality between people is rising. Thirdly, climate change was not there as an issue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he shouldn ' t be criticized for setting himself up as the leader of Europe, because if France doesn ' t do it, who will? How would you respond to that?
There's more than one leader of Europe, and a weak France makes it harder to have a strong Europe. No one country or one leader defines or runs Europe. In President Sarkozy, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Gordon Brown you have strong, practical, unblinkered leaders and that's a very good thing. I think that the European-American relationship will benefit from that.

When you look at Iran, North Korea and Burma the sanctions against them don ' t seem to work. We impose more sanctions and they get more isolated and the government seems to get more empowered. Should we be trying something different?
My personal perspective is never give yourself more than a B-plus on anything you do. To say, yes, we are doing everything brilliantly, I would never do that. There's all sorts of issues wrapped up in this. I mean North Korea is in a different box from the others, and the situation is now different from a year ago. There is no question in my mind that sanctions are having an impact. But it's not a sort of switch you can flick on or off.

Does speculation that the U.S. might bomb Iran make your job more difficult?
What makes my job difficult is the refusal of the Iranian regime to do what has been asked of them.

You ' ve said the monks on the streets of Burma are a sign of progress in the march toward democracy. But look at what all the big Asian neighbors are saying: they ' re just as silent as they were 20 years ago.
I think the genie is out of the bottle. Look at education and communications. Sure different countries will take different positions in trying to manage things in different ways. But the monks walked past the British Embassy clapping, which means they know something about what we're saying. I don't want to be naive or rose-tinted about it. Some of them are getting beat up or even killed. But the reason I point to progress is that it's very easy ... to sort of hope the world goes away. But what are the top issues? Iran, Kosovo, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma. [Some people might say] let's just get on with our shopping. And actually it's important to see the trends as well as the traumas.