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Blair Faces Political Fallout From Iraq Stance - 2003-03-18

With war against Iraq all but inevitable, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush's staunchest ally, is facing a hectic political situation at home. A prominent member of his cabinet resigned Monday, and he is facing a revolt within his own party.

An emergency cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's residence, was the focus of Britain's attention Monday. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, speaking after the meeting, defended the government's futile diplomatic campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein. "Nobody has tried harder than our government and our Prime Minister to resolve this diplomatically," he said, "but once France made clear they could veto a new resolution whatever the circumstances, it became impossible to move forward."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the Parliament countries opposed to the Washington-London-Madrid resolution that would, in effect, authorize war against Iraq would only delay the disarmament process. "The alternative proposal submitted by France, Germany and Russia for more time and more inspections carry no ultimatum and no threat of force. They do not implement [U.N. Resolution] 1441 but seek to rewrite it," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing hostile questioning Tuesday when the House of Commons is to debate the government's decision to go to war without specific U.N. authorization. In what may well escalate the revolt within Mr. Blair's own Labor Party, senior government minister Robin Cook resigned Monday in protest against the prime minister's policy.

Polls here indicate that the overwhelming majority of Britons are against military action without a second U.N. resolution, and many members of Mr. Blair's own ruling Labor party share those views.