- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair will try to calm anxiety within his own Labor Party today by insisting that Britain will not rush into an American-led conflict with Iraq without seeking renewed U.N. backing.
His message is designed to reassure party members and an increasingly skeptical public, who do not believe enough proof has been found to justify risking British lives in a new Gulf war.
Mr. Blair came under more pressure yesterday to reassure the party and the public when Clare Short, the international development secretary in his Cabinet, said it was Britain's "duty" to act as a restraining influence on Washington.
Insisting that she was merely stating government policy, Miss Short said: "Britain is absolutely clear, and the prime minister is absolutely clear, that we stick with the U.N. process we have got, and we are not deviating from it."
Other key U.S. allies in any war against Iraq were also looking for ways to avoid a conflict yesterday:
Turkey's Prime Minister Abdullah Gul was in the Iranian capital, Tehran, yesterday on a diplomatic mission to build a regional consensus to avert a war, though he stressed that the responsibility lay mainly with Iraq, Reuters news agency reported.
Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, said that he did not believe there would be war on Iraq, and that his kingdom had proposed an initiative to fellow Arab states to resolve the crisis.
Until now Mr. Blair has kept open the option of acting with the United States if the United Nations cannot agree on a specific war resolution. But with his backbenchers increasingly restive and the public unconvinced, the prime minister realizes a change of emphasis is needed.
At a televised press conference today, Mr. Blair is expected to stress that U.N. weapons inspectors must be given more time and that, if possible, a second U.N. resolution should be passed to authorize war.
The shift came as a survey for the Sunday Telegraph found that 69 percent of local Labor Party chairmen expected members to leave the party if Britain went to war, with 5 percent saying they would resign themselves.
In a further move to assuage backbenchers, Mr. Blair indicated that when he visits Washington this month he is prepared to try to convince President Bush that U.N. inspectors must be given more time.

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