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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Brown behind Blair over Iraq
An F-18 fighter plane on aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Arabian Sea
Some MPs fear war preparations are under way
Chancellor Gordon Brown has given his public backing to Tony Blair over the Iraq crisis.

A lot of members are in despair

Ann Black, Labour NEC member
In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Mr Brown said the government "must have the strength to take the right decisions".

He also attempted to play down talk of a Cabinet rift over Mr Blair's plans to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

"I believe the government will act as one. I am not going to speculate beyond that," Mr Brown told the newspaper.

Grassroots anger

On Thursday, Commons leader Robin Cook refused to rule out resigning from the Cabinet if the decision was taken to attack Iraq without United Nations support.

Chancellor Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown: Supports Blair's stance on Iraq
He also said it would be "inconceivable" that the government would commit forces to military action without the "consent and support" of Parliament.

International Development Secretary Clare Short is also thought to be strongly opposed to war.

Grassroots Labour members are also in open revolt over the prospect of military action, even if it is carried out with UN blessing.

Ann Black, a local party representative on Labour's ruling National Executive, said many members were ready to quit over the issue.

She told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "A lot of members are in despair.

"The only thing that keeps them in the party is that there are at least some people in the party who share their concerns and are willing to voice them."

Mark Seddon, editor of Tribune, said he planned to table an anti-war motion at the next NEC meeting.

International alliance

However, speculation that Gordon Brown would oppose military action on economic grounds when the Cabinet sits in 10 days time would appear to be groundless.

In his FT interview, Mr Brown said he supported Mr Blair's efforts to help US President George Bush forge an international alliance, claiming that the threat Iraq posed was too great to ignore.

"The international community should not - and cannot - tolerate or leave unaddressed the issue of a regime that proliferates chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weapons in absolute defiance of international agreements and decisions that have been made over 10 years," Mr Brown said.

Interest rates

The Chancellor also told the FT he thought economic recovery around the world was "slower than had been expected".

He said it was too soon to tell if his forecast of 2% to 2.5% UK growth this year was too optimistic.

But he strongly hinted that he did not think it was time for the Bank of England to cut interest rates.

"Domestic demand in Britain has been relatively good and I don't think that's been an issue."

On the euro, Mr Brown repeated his promise that the Treasury's five economic tests for entry would be completed by next June.

Euro decision

He said the possibility of war on Iraq and the state of the European economy would not affect the decision.

"If you are assessing the position of the British economy in relation to the euro you have to make a long-term assessment.

"I would caution people against taking a very short term view of events."

He added: "The idea that we should make a long term decision about the future of the British economy and the euro on the basis of one or two months' figures in the euro area seems to be not the correct way of addressing a fundamental and long-term decision."

Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrat, has called on Mr Brown to release an assessment of the economic impact of military action against Iraq, before Parliament is recalled on 24 September.

In a letter to the Chancellor, Mr Taylor asks about the likely impact on oil prices of war in Iraq.

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See also:

13 Sep 02 | Middle East
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