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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Blair to press ahead with US trip
Saturday's CND march attracted about 3,500 demonstrators
Blair faces opposition to any military action on Iraq
Tony Blair is going ahead with his planned meeting with US President George Bush to discuss possible military action against Iraq.

Downing Street says it has the "full agreement" of Buckingham Palace for Mr Blair to go to Texas at the weekend.

The prime minister will lead tributes to the Queen Mother in the Commons on Wednesday, as well as attending Friday's service to receive her coffin at Westminster Hall.

Mr Blair will be back from his long-trailed meeting with Mr Bush in time for the royal funeral next Tuesday.

Labour unease

His meeting with the US president comes against the backdrop of mounting opposition to possible armed action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

A Commons motion expressing "deep unease" over the prospect of British support for US action against Iraq has now been signed by 141 MPs, many of them Labour backbenchers.
A man injured in a Palestinian suicide attack on a Tel Aviv cafe on Saturday
Middle East peace should come first, says Cardinal Cormac O'Connor

International Development Secretary Clare Short is one cabinet minister to have raised concern over potential action.

She has hinted she might resign if military force was used without United Nations backing.

Mr Blair says Iraq is building up weapons of mass destruction and argues that threat cannot be ignored.

But his spokesman has rubbished suggestions that the meeting at Mr Bush's Texas ranch will be any kind of "council of war".

New dossier

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has stressed that any action against Iraq will take place under international law.

Britain wants UN weapons inspectors back in Iraq and for them to be able to examine freely any sites.

Downing Street has not yet pressed ahead with plans to publish a new dossier of evidence about Saddam Hussein's accumulation of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

That has prompted speculation that Mr Blair will urge the US president to take a cautious approach to the Iraqi issue.

But a Number 10 spokeswoman played down claims the dossier's release had been delayed.

"There was never any date given for its release," said the spokeswoman.

"As and when we have the information we will release it and not before," she said.

Even publishing such evidence is unlikely to allay the fears over possible military action held among many of Mr Blair's backbenchers.

Middle East opposition

Labour's Tam Dalyell, the longest serving MP, was among the 3,500 demonstrators who joined a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) rally on Saturday.

Mr Dalyell said even the Iranians, who fought a devastating eight-year war against Saddam Hussein, opposed fresh military action against Iraq.

"It is no good demonising Saddam Hussein. He's not a nice man but demonising a country is a different matter," Mr Dalyell added.

Israel's declaration of war on what it calls Yasser Arafat's "terrorist infrastructure" will also fuel opposition to anything that could further jeopardise stability in the region.

On Saturday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales joined the calls for caution.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Anything that doesn't lead to long term peace in the Middle East should not be done.

"If a unilateral attack on Iraq would in fact cause instability, would cause the loss of ultimate peace in the Middle East, then, in my view, it would be a very dangerous step to take."

See also:

25 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair warns of terror 'marriage'
24 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw bids to ease Iraq fears
15 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw: No Iraq decision yet
12 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw outlines Iraq's 'severe threat'
28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair hints at Iraq action
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