Blair under siege

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Feb 19 10:17:39 MST 2003

Blair Under Siege Over Stance on Iraq
Opposition Up, Poll Numbers Down

By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 19, 2003; Page A01

LONDON, Feb. 18 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing his toughest
political battle since taking office over growing opposition to his
support for President Bush and U.S.-led military action against Iraq,
according to analysts and opinion polls.

Blair, America's staunchest international supporter, has been hit by a
series of setbacks in recent days, starting with an equivocal report by
the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, to the Security Council
last Friday. That was followed by Saturday's mass demonstration opposing
a war, a protest now said to have attracted more than 1 million people,
the largest political rally in British history. This morning, a new
opinion poll showed Blair at his lowest approval rating in 21/2 years.

Other U.S. allies in Europe also face political difficulty. In Italy,
where an estimated 1 million marchers protested against military action
and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's support for the Bush
administration, the country's main labor union, the CGIL, today
threatened to launch a general strike if war broke out. In Spain, where
2 million to 3 million people took to the streets Saturday, Prime
Minister Jose Maria Aznar's party has fallen behind the rival Socialists
in opinion polls for the first time since he came to power three years
ago. Aznar is to meet with Bush this weekend at the president's ranch in
Crawford, Tex.

Blair and his aides are disturbed that despite a month-long blitz of
public appearances in which he has sought to make the case against Iraq,
opposition to military action is increasing. Blair's opponents within
his ruling Labor Party have become increasingly emboldened and for the
first time are talking openly of seeking to replace Blair if he takes
Britain into war without a second Security Council resolution
authorizing force.

"This is crunch time for Tony Blair," said Alan Simpson, a leader of
Labor's antiwar faction in the House of Commons. "He can lead the war
party or the Labor Party, but he can't lead both. It's quite clear if he
goes off to war, he will have left the party behind him."


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