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Britain Prefers UN Resolution Authorizing War Against Iraq - 2003-01-16

Britain is reaffirming its preference for a new U.N. Security Council resolution to authorize military action if Iraq defies weapons inspections, an idea the Bush administration opposes.

The British cabinet met on the Iraq crisis in London Thursday, and a senior minister says there unanimous support for Prime Minister Tony Blair's tough stand in dealing with Iraq.

Labor party chief John Reid, who sits on the cabinet, told reporters all the ministers remain committed to seeking another U.N. resolution to authorize force if Iraq interferes with weapons inspections.

His remarks came just hours after The New York Times and Washington Post newspapers reported that the United States is resisting calls for a second U.N. vote before a possible war with Iraq.

Mr. Reid declined to comment on those reports, but he pointed out that so far the United States has been supportive of the U.N. in the showdown with Iraq.

Mr. Reid also reaffirmed that Britain also could go to war with Iraq without specific U.N. authorization if, for example, a Security Council member vetoed a resolution on the matter.

"It is our preferred option to have, I won't call it a second resolution, it is yet another resolution on this issue," he said. "But we have made absolutely plain, that while that is our preference, we, and that means every member of the cabinet, have put on record that we don't want to be confined by that preference."

Mr. Reid spoke as the Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Ocean set sail for the eastern Mediterranean as part of the British buildup of forces that could be deployed in a war with Iraq.

Prime Minister Blair has talks scheduled for Friday with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. Mr. Blair's spokesman says the discussions will be held at the prime ministerial retreat of Chequers, away from the media glare in London.

Mr. Blair is also making plans to travel to the United States for talks with President Bush on January 31, four days after Mr. Blix gives a progress report on the inspections in Iraq to the Security Council.