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Blair Pledges to Stay Despite Financial Probe Uproar

Interviewed for a second time by police, Prime Minister Tony Blair is under increasing pressure to step down early as the so-called cash-for-honors probe takes its toll on Britain's ruling Labor Party. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from London.

A day after it was revealed that Prime Minister Tony Blair was questioned for a second time by detectives looking into allegations that political honors may have been traded for cash donations to political parties here, pressure is mounting on the British leader to leave office early.

According to his office he was interviewed as a witness, not as someone who may have broken long-standing rules against favoritism in exchange for donations.

A number of Blair's close aides have been questioned over the course of the police inquiry that was initiated last spring.

Police are looking into whether any donors, or those giving loans to parties, might have been granted special honors like knighthood or a place in the House of Lords.

Two of Blair's closest advisors, including his top party fundraiser, were arrested last month on suspicion of obstructing justice. Although no one has been charged as part of the ongoing probe, political observers are sensing a possible cover up.

Several senior Labor Party figures say the net effect of this nearly year-long investigation has eroded the authority of Blair and his government.

Labor Party chair Hazel Blears, for one, concedes it has not been good.

"I think it is damaging for politics, because there is a corrosive cynicism around that I think is actually damaging for the country," she said. "Now, but what I am saying is that the business of government, actually getting out there, passing new legislation, implementing change, improving NHS [National Health Service] and education, that goes on."

As for the prime minister, he tells the BBC that the inquest will not force him to depart office early. He has repeatedly said he will leave sometime before the next party conference in September.

"I think it has got to run its course over the next few weeks," said Mr. Blair. "I hope it will be wound up and then let us see where we are then. And in the meantime, despite what people may think, I get on with the job."

He also says he will be more forthcoming with his comments on the matter once that investigation has concluded. But the issue and its implications will likely follow him until his last day in office and it will be seen as part of his legacy.

Blair is the first serving British prime minister to be questioned by police in a criminal investigation.