Monday, 6 January 2003

Britain's envoys want the PM to stall Bush's plans for war

Fetch Tony Fetch.... Good boy.... Telegrams from British embassies and missions around the world are urging Tony Blair to step up pressure on President Bush to pull back from a war against Iraq. In what amounts to a collective cri de coeur, our envoys - congregating in Whitehall today for an unprecedented Foreign Office brainstorming session - are warning of the potentially devastating consequences of such an adventure, including its impact on a greater threat than Saddam Hussein: al-Qaida-inspired terrorism.

The warnings are not just coming from our envoys and defence attaches in Arab capitals. They are also, I am told, coming from Washington. This, our diplomats suggest, could be one of Blair's - and Britain's - finest hours, a unique opportunity to make a constructive contribution to world affairs. They also know, not least from American opinion polls, that the Bush administration needs Britain onside. Our contribution would be a token one in military terms, but significant politically. That gives Britain leverage.

It is hard to find anyone in Whitehall who supports a war against Iraq and who is not deeply concerned about the influence of the hawks around Bush. They cannot say so in public, of course.

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