LONDON: War dissidents in Tony Blair’s ruling Labour Party in the UK reacted on Friday to the UN weapons inspectors’ latest reports by vowing to “move heaven and earth” to win another vote in the UK’s House of Commons next week to register their deepening opposition to a premature war against Iraq.
Peter Kilfoyle, Labour member of parliament and leading organiser of last week’s rebellion, also warned Tony Blair that he was risking his long-term leadership of the Labour Party if he goes to war without a clear further UN mandate.
The dissident MPs will press the UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, to stage a Commons debate and vote before the new March 17 deadline, but after the Security Council has voted on UK’s proposed amended second resolution. Mr Straw has shown sympathy to calls for Commons votes on war, so long as a debate will not undermine the security of British military forces.
Mr Kilfoyle, a former UK defence minister, claimed some junior government ministers would be wrestling with their consciences this weekend, contemplating the prospect of resignation if no second UN security council resolution is passed.
He warned: “I think the prime minister understands perfectly well that his position is highly dependent on a successful outcome to the efforts to get a second resolution based on credible evidence.”
Graham Allen MP, another leading dissident, predicted a bigger rebellion than the high-water mark of 121 Labour rebels last week. He said: “We are heading for war. Dr Blix made it clear that March 17 is not enough time. He has said he needs months to complete his work. We need some statesmanship from our prime minister to make sure Bush does not go ahead with war on a predetermined timetable. To go to premature war will only inflame the Middle East and encourage terrorists.”
It appears that Mr Blair has made his choice and will back US military action, even if he will strain every diplomatic sinew over the next five or six days to win the support of security council members. He knows British public support, his relations with the big European powers and possibly his own party leadership, will turn on a second resolution.
But cabinet ministers insist that Mr Blair could survive politically so long as any war was quick and successful.
Concerns were growing in part of the government on Friday that President Bush was no longer willing to apply diplomatic pressure to win a new resolution. It is felt that Mr Bush had been prepared to do “a favour for a friend [Mr Blair]” by seeking further UN endorsement, but he is not willing to wait any longer.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.