MUMBAI, INDIA — Britain's foreign minister suggested that the U.S.-led war on terrorism may have "done more harm than good" as he issued a sharp rebuke Thursday to the Bush administration.
David Miliband's speech at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai was among the first public remarks from a senior British official criticizing how the Bush administration's battle against terrorism has been conducted since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Taj was one of several sites in India's financial hub attacked by militants in a November siege that left more than 170 dead.
Miliband said the British government "has used neither the idea nor the phrase 'war on terror' " since 2006.
"Ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken," he said. "Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good. But we need to move on to meet the challenges we face."
Miliband has denied suggestions that he timed his remarks to coincide with President Bush's final days in office.
British opposition Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Edward Davey said Miliband's criticism was too little, too late.
"If the British foreign secretary had said this to President Bush many months, if not years, ago, then it would have deserved some credit," Davey said Thursday in a statement. "Mimicking President-elect Obama's lines days before his inauguration does not show leadership."
Miliband has sought to align himself with Obama, who will be sworn in Tuesday, and has praised incoming Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her pledges to use a "smart power" mix of military might and diplomacy.
"The new administration has a set of values that fit very well with the values and priorities I am talking about," Miliband was quoted as telling the Guardian newspaper.
On Thursday, he restated his commitment to diplomacy and challenged the West to lead by example.
"If we want to promote the politics of consent instead of terror and of democratic opportunity rather than fear and oppression, we must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties both at home and abroad," he said.
"Democracies must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it," he added.
Miliband had met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders earlier in the week to discuss the investigation into the Mumbai attacks. India blames the assaults on a Pakistani-based militant group.