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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Prescott backs Blair's Iraq strategy
President Bush delivering his speech to the UN General Assembly
Some credit Blair for bringing Bush back to the UN
The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has added his voice to a campaign to rally support for the government's strategy on Iraq.

He wishes to make clear he personally endorses Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance towards Iraq, his office said.

John Prescott
Mr Prescott: Keen to show support for possible action

Mr Prescott is still seen as commanding considerable influence among the party's grassroots.

His support will be welcome at a time when Mr Blair faces widespread opposition to any military intervention in Iraq from Labour backbenchers and leading party figures, including former cabinet ministers Chris Smith and Mo Mowlam.

Mr Prescott wished to make his views clear in advance of the recall of parliament to debate action on Iraq on 24 September, his office said.

"The deputy prime minister supports the prime minister as he would expect him to do so," said a spokesman.

In Saturday's edition of the Times newspaper, Mr Prescott is quoted as telling senior colleagues that he is "100% supportive".

Influence on Bush?

And a "friend" is reported as saying: "He intends to be a major part of the leadership effort to bring party and public opinion around."

Friends said his silence about the issue up until now should be attributed to the fact that he is on holiday, not because of any misgivings.

Mr Prescott is reportedly pleased that Blair has apparently swayed Washington to seek a UN mandate for action in Iraq, which Clare Short, International Development Secretary, is also said to have applauded.

Former Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith
Chris Smith: Sceptical about Iraq intervention
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown spearheaded the Labour drive to back Blair and win over public and party support on Friday in an interview in the Financial Times newspaper.

Mr Brown said economic considerations should not be allowed to impede support for US-led action.

However, Mr Blair still faces a challenge convincing several senior government figures to come round to his strategy.

Robin Cook, the Commons leader, is yet to offer any public endorsement and is believed to have voiced private unease.

'Disastrous'

And in an interview for Sunday's GMTV, recorded on Friday, former Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith said the consequences of a campaign in Iraq could be "potentially disastrous".

In the event of an attack on Iraq, he said, "what we are likely to see is a disintegration of the international coalition against terrorism".

He also criticised the role of the UN in the situation, saying it was being used as "an excuse rather than... a proper forum for international discussion and debate".


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17 May 01 | Key People
13 Sep 02 | UK
13 Sep 02 | Middle East
12 Sep 02 | Politics
13 Sep 02 | Politics
11 Sep 02 | Politics
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