Embattled Tony Blair was tossed a grudging morsel of support by President Bush yesterday, winning a delay for a UN vote on war with Iraq.
Facing huge domestic opposition to military action, Mr Blair begged Mr Bush in a 20-minute phone call for more time to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
A vote on a second UN resolution could now be delayed to next week or even as late as March 24.
A White House official said: "Mr Blair has been a good friend to us. We're returning the favour because of his domestic circumstances. But there's no more wiggle room."
As it stands, the resolution - backed by the US, Britain and Spain - sets a Monday deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm. Mr Bush originally wanted a vote by the end of this week.
Yesterday Mr Blair asked Mr Bush to give a UK compromise deal, demanding Saddam meet six tests, the chance to succeed.
The White House, aware that the chances of a second resolution look slimmer than ever before, agreed.
But it also confirmed that it might not even bother with a second vote and wage war under the authority of previous UN resolutions.