- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 12, 2003

LONDON, Jan. 12 (UPI) — A senior member of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet has said Britain should not join a unilateral U.S. military action on Iraq without U.N. approval.

International Development Secretary Clare Short is the senior-most British official to have come out against Blair's support of Washington on the Iraq issue.

"I think all the people of Britain have a duty to keep our country firmly on the U.N. route, so that we stop the U.S. maybe going to war too early, and keep the world united," she told ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby program.

She cautioned against unilateral military action to rid Iraq of its suspected weapons of mass destruction.

"I think it's very dangerous," she said. "I'm very, very worried."

Short's comments follow last week's Daily Telegraph report that said some senior members of Blair's government do not believe there is enough clear evidence that Iraq is developing such weapons to justify an invasion in the immediate future, and that an attack during the searing heat of summer would not be practical.

Top officials told the newspaper any plans to invade Iraq should be put off until next fall so U.N. weapons inspectors in the country will have plenty of time to conduct a thorough search for any weapons of mass destruction.

The Telegraph also said support in Britain's Parliament for an invasion would fade unless there was concrete proof that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime was producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that, unless there is a smoking gun, the inspectors have to be given time to keep searching," a senior Whitehall source told the newspaper.

U.N. weapons inspectors are at present in Iraq in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 to ascertain whether Saddam's regime possesses proscribed weapons of mass destruction.

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