Nick Clegg has hailed a new "axis of openness" following the uprisings in the Middle East and international backing for action in Libya.

Speaking in Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, Mr Clegg said the ”rising democratic tide in North Africa and the Middle East, led by middle-class secular forces” heralded a major shake up in international affairs.

The Deputy PM also praised the ”swift and decisive response by the United Nations” to the dangers posed to those fighting for freedom in Libya and the reaction of the world to the tragedy in Japan.

He said:

Just as 1989 and 2001 marked sharp breaks with the past, so 2011 could prove to be a turning point in international affairs: the third critical moment in recent history.  

Many of the received wisdoms of the last decade have tumbled like dominoes. Against the predictions of most of the experts in foreign ministries around the world, the last nine months have seen a rising tide of democracy and openness, and a resuscitation of the ideals of multilateralism.

Speaking on the same day as the London Conference on Libya, Mr Clegg stressed that the action being taken in Libya “is right”.

Like most of you, I was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. It was wrong. But the action being taken in Libya today is right. It would be a terrible tragedy if the mistakes of Iraq led to a retreat from the principle of liberal interventionism, from the principle that we have a collective responsibility to support freedom and protect human rights around the world. 

The lesson of Iraq is not that intervention in support of liberal aims is always wrong. The lesson of Iraq is that any such action must only - and must always - be multilaterally sanctioned and driven by humanitarian concerns. ”Liberal vigilantism is dead. Law-abiding liberal interventionism is not.

Speech: An Axis of Openness: Renewing Multilateralism for the 21st Century

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