- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

LONDON, April 18 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faced a Labor Party revolt over taking his country to war in Iraq, told his family that the issue could cost him his job, according to a published report Friday.

In an interview in the Sun tabloid, Blair said he was worried in the war's early days when U.S. and British forces were "getting bogged down" by fiercer-than-expected resistance.

Blair's support for the war in Iraq, despite sharply divided public opening, was the biggest political risk of his six years in office, leading to a revolt by much of his Labor Party.

Public opinion in Britain swung behind the conflict only after the war started and remained hesitant until television showed U.S. troops being welcomed on the streets of Baghdad.

On the eve of the war, Blair pledged that he would resign if he lost a vote in Parliament authorizing the conflict.

He told the Sun he had warned his children he could lose the fight.

"I did sit down with them at one point and I explained that this was going to be extremely difficult and it was possible the thing could go against me," the prime minister said.

Despite the consistently confident line taken by the U.S. President George W. Bush and Blair during the war, he said he had fears in the early days that the war would be longer and bloodier than planned.

"There were moments when it looked like we were getting bogged down and 10 days in you were worried about how long this was going to go. Had we miscalculated the degree of the depth of resistance?" he said.

Blair admitted that struggles with French President Jacques Chirac over the United Nations and with his own party were "exhausting and stressful."

Blair told the Sun: "I found it very frustrating and at times extraordinary that there were so many people against something that seemed to me in principle so obviously right."

He admitted he had been furious with Chirac for putting British troops at risk by sabotaging U.N. action against Iraq. In a speech before the war, he reminded Chirac of the debt owed by France to America in two world wars.

And Blair told the newspaper that he had become battle-hardened after leading Britain into war in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and now Iraq.

"You toughen up," he said. "But the only thing that really weighs on you, in the sense that you are prepared to put your own career and job on the line for it, is the life and death of the people affected by it. You know that in the end it is an decision that you put the whole of your premiership on the line for."

But Blair said Britain owed a big debt to the European Union allies who stood up against France and Germany, including Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar who braved massive opposition to the war.

"At one point, he rang me to say, 'I have the support of only 4 percent of the people. I replied, 'Crikey — that's even less than the number who think Elvis Presley is still alive."

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