Sunday 16 March 2003
Lawmakers From Prime Minister Blair's Labor Party Threaten Fresh Revolt Against Iraq Policy
Lawmakers from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party threatened to stage a new rebellion against his Iraq policy as Blair joined President Bush on Sunday in setting a one-day deadline for diplomacy to avert a war on Iraq.
Blair has faced intense resistance at home to the prospect of war without a new U.N. resolution, a scenario that seemed more likely than ever as the leaders' mid-Atlantic summit ended.
Last month, 122 Labor lawmakers staged their biggest rebellion since Blair came to power in 1997, voting against the government and in favor of a motion that said the case for war was "unproven."
Labor legislator Graham Allen said that if Blair calls a debate and vote this week on Iraq press reports speculated it may come Tuesday he and a group of colleagues would offer another anti-war amendment.
Among those working on the measure, Allen said, was Chris Smith, a former member of Blair's Cabinet who sponsored the previous amendment.
The new measure would express support for the 40,000 British troops now awaiting action in the Gulf, but challenge the "moral authority" of war without clear U.N. backing, Allen said.
Now that a second U.N. resolution appears less likely, Allen said he expected the rebellion this time would be even larger, since many lawmakers who backed Blair on the last Iraq vote said they'd only support war with a fresh resolution.
"There are a great number of colleagues who said that they would not support war without a very clear second U.N. resolution," Allen told the British Broadcasting Corp. "We do not have that ... so I do believe that a number of other colleagues will be considering their position tonight."
Blair does not need parliamentary approval to wage war, but his government has promised to give lawmakers the chance to have their say in a vote.
Bush, Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso met briefly on the mid-Atlantic Azores archipelago and set a one-day deadline for the United Nations to demand immediate disarmament of Iraq.
War without fresh U.N. backing is the political nightmare Blair has long hoped to avoid. A majority of Britons including many Labor Party members oppose action without the world body's support.
One Cabinet member has threatened to resign if Britain joins a war without U.N. approval and other ministers may follow.
The group that organized an enormous anti-war demonstration in London last month said it planned another protest, on Saturday.
While Blair flew to and from the summit, Cabinet ministers sought to shore up domestic and international support for his stance.
Treasury chief Gordon Brown said war was not inevitable.
"Even today the focus is on seeing whether we can move the diplomatic process forward," he told the BBC's "Breakfast with Frost" program.
Brown also insisted as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had on Saturday that resolution 1441, passed unanimously by the Security Council in November, provided full legal authority for war.
Press reports said Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has advised Blair that existing Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1441, passed unanimously in November, provide sufficient legal authorization for war.
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