10 Mar 2003 09:01 GMT
Clare Short threatens to resign
By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair, battling on the diplomatic front over preparations to wage war on Iraq, faces revolt on the home front after cabinet minister Clare Short threatened to resign. Blair, increasingly isolated at home and abroad over his unswerving support for U.S. President George W. Bush's determination to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, has already suffered a parliamentary slap in the face. But his International Development Secretary Clare Short, describing Blair as "reckless", said she would resign if there was no second United Nations' resolution for invasion. "I will not uphold a breach of international law or this undermining of the U.N. and I will resign from the government," the government minister, renowned for speaking her mind, said. Short immediately came under fire from one cabinet colleague who described her stance as "indulgent". "It's a little bit indulgent for people to be talking about resigning in the hypothetical situation that there's no second resolution when the government is working flat out to get that second resolution," Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt told Sky News. Short's public threat, confirming months of rumours, came as one junior government member resigned his post amid speculation four others could follow as Blair's Labour Party faced its biggest internal rift since it came to power in 1997. More than 120 Labour parliamentarians recently voted against the government over war against Iraq, and more are expected to sign up to the revolt if there is no support from the U.N. Britain, Spain and the United States are expected to press for a vote on a second resolution this week after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw put forward a draft resolution giving Saddam until March 17 to disarm or face military action. France has warned it may exercise its power of veto on the resolution, saying U.N. weapons inspectors are making headway. Iraq denies possessing banned weapons of mass destruction. Short accused Blair of making a major blunder, politically, diplomatically and personally. "The current situation is deeply reckless; reckless for the world, reckless for the undermining of the U.N. in this disorderly world...reckless with our government, reckless with his own future, position and place in history. It's extraordinarily reckless, I'm very surprised by it," she said. Newspapers took up the theme in editorials on Monday. "Make no mistake...this is now extremely dangerous for the Prime Minister," The Independent said. "If no second resolution is passed, and the war starts later this month, resignations from the Cabinet might follow and a further revolt among Labour MPs would be a certainty," it added. It was a theme echoed by the Times, which said it would be Blair's biggest test as leader and warned that even a quick military victory in Iraq would not paper over the cracks exposed within the Labour Party. Throughout the growing domestic crisis, Blair has benefited somewhat uncomfortably from the support of the Conservative Party in his stance on Iraq. On Monday the right wing Daily Telegraph again took up the cudgels on his behalf. "Labour MPs know that Saddam is already in material breach of U.N. resolutions," it said. "In truth this is not really about the U.N. but about the tendency of the Labour fringe always and everywhere to oppose the projection of British force."
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