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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Cabinet's Iraq worries
Tony Blair and George W Bush
Some cabinet members have expressed concern
With speculation growing of a cabinet showdown over Iraq, BBC News Online looks at what ministers have said.

International Development Secretary Clare Short is expected to be the most vocal opponent of military action when ministers meet later on Monday.

There is no serious division inside the Cabinet

John Prescott
Over the weekend, she went public with her oppositon to an all-out war against Saddam Hussein's regime.

She said it would be wrong to have another Gulf War and to make the ordinary people of Iraq suffer.

In the past, she has hinted at resignation from the Cabinet in the if Iraq was invaded without United Nations backing.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has publicly backed Tony Blair's proposals to deal with Saddam.

In an interview last week with the Financial Times newspaper, Mr Brown said the government "must have the strength to take the right decisions".

Privately, he is believed to be concerned about the economic fallout from military action and the impact that could have on his public spending plans.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has tried to take a less hawkish line than the US.

He wanted to try once more with arms inspections in Iraq.

"If Saddam Hussein allows weapons inspectors back without condition, without restriction and when they are allowed to do their job properly, then the circumstances will change," he said.

"What everybody is concerned about is, yes, it's a terribly bad regime, but particularly about the threat Saddam poses from both his capability and his record to the security of the region and the security of the world.

"The best way of trying to isolate and reduce that threat is by the introduction of weapons inspectors."

Resignation threat?

Commons Leader Robin Cook, whose previous job was foreign secretary, is also said to be concerned.

Mr Cook has refused to rule out resigning from the Cabinet if the decision was taken to attack Iraq without United Nations support.

He has also said it would be "inconceivable" that the government would commit forces to military action without the "consent and support" of Parliament.

In a weekend press interview, he said military action should also be aimed at removing weapons of mass destruction, rather than at regime change.

Mr Cook also urged the prime minister to ensure that all cabinet members are given the opportunity to speak their minds at Monday's meeting.

Robin Cook
Mr Cook said to have expressed reservations
Both Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett and Transport Secretary Alistair Darling are also believed to be expressing doubts in private.

But Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has played down the possibility of a rift over Iraq within the UK government.

"There is no serious division inside the cabinet and there are debates inside the cabinet," he said.

Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is expected to back the prime minister's stance, also stressed the need for unity and "collective decision making".

Asked what he expected of the cabinet meeting, Mr Blunkett said: "We want to be well informed.

"We want to be able to follow through on the material that is being placed in the public arena tomorrow (Tuesday) in the dossier."

He said ministers wanted to "exchange views privately and confidentially" on the key issues so none of them could claim they had not been properly informed.

See also:

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