Tony Blair has made a last-minute U-turn on plans to publish a dossier of evidence against Saddam Hussein because he feared it would increase the frenzied speculation about an immediate war against Iraq, leading to an overwhelming backlash from his own MPs.
In a significant move which reveals the first softening of the line against the Iraqi dictator, Blair ordered that the report be pulled a few days before the Foreign Office was due to publish it, reported the British Observer.
Blair was also concerned that Arab countries would see it as giving a green light to military action against Saddam.
The news comes five days before Blair is due to travel to the United States for a summit with President George Bush. At Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Blair will privately argue for a more cautious tone on Iraq and say that any military action is 'a long way off'. He will also say that all diplomatic avenues should be explored and that the United Nations should have a key role in backing any coalition operation against the country.
Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, was due to publish the Government's evidence during a speech last Monday, but Blair told him the weekend before that it was no longer 'politically useful' to continue with these plans. Senior government sources said that 'frenzied speculation' about military action against Iraq was damaging Blair's ties with his party and had led to the suggestion that two Cabinet Ministers, Clare Short and Robin Cook, would quit.
The Observer revealed earlier this month that senior figures in the British armed forces are concerned that any moves against Saddam could be ill-thought out and lead to British forces being involved in an open-ended and highly dangerous military mission. (Albawaba.com)
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