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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Short 'carpeted' over Iraq
Saturday's CND march attracted about 3,500 demonstrators
Mr Blair faces opposition to military action
A Cabinet split over military action in Iraq has re-emerged ahead of Tony Blair's weekend meeting with US President George Bush.

Mr Blair is reported to have "carpeted" International Development Secretary Clare Short after she expressed reservations about a possible attack.

The government is insisting no decision has been made on whether to launch a new offensive against Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein.

But according to the Guardian newspaper, Mr Blair is "privately reconciled" to British involvement in any military action.

'Blind action'

The newspaper says Mr Blair has told Ms Short to speak to him before airing her views in public, after she appeared to question the government's position.

Clare Short
Short: Speaks her mind
In an interview with the BBC's On The Record programme last month, she hit out at "blind military action".

And in a remark widely interpreted as a resignation threat, she said everyone had "a bottom line".

Ms Short quit Labour's front bench 10 years ago in protest at the Gulf War.

Her views on Iraq are believed to be shared by Home Secretary David Blunkett and Robin Cook, the leader of the House.

Meanwhile, 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.

'Severe danger'

Mr Blair is preparing to fly to Texas to discuss how to deal with Iraq with President Bush.

He claims Iraq is building up weapons of mass destruction and argues that threat can not be ignored.

But he is expected to urge caution in the light of the on-going crisis in the Middle East and the war in Afghanistan.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has told the BBC Iraq still posed a "very severe danger" to global stability.

But he ruled out an imminent US attack and insisted President Bush would consult widely with its allies before taking action.

'New evidence'

The row comes as new information from a high-level Iraqi defector involved in Saddam Hussein's arms programme suggests that Iraq has developed sophisticated biological weapons facilities.

David Rose, a journalist with the US magazine Vanity Fair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the former top official had told him how he smuggled radioactive waste for so-called "dirty" bombs.

The source also told Mr Rose he had converted biological weapons facilities into undetectable mobile units and was working on the development of a ballistic missile that could reach into southern Europe.

See also:

01 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair to press ahead with US trip
17 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Short warns over Iraq action
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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