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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 17:17 GMT
Short 'optimistic' after Blair meeting
Clare Short outside 10 Downing Street
There was surprise Ms Short was not sacked
Clare Short has said she is "more optimistic" about progress being made over the concerns she raised this week about Tony Blair's stance on Iraq.

After a meeting with the prime minister on Friday, she said the two had had a "very good discussion".

It follows the international development secretary's criticism of Mr Blair's stance on Iraq earlier this week.

Ms Short described the prime minister's approach as "reckless" and said she would quit the cabinet if the UK took military action against Iraq without UN backing.

There was speculation that she would be sacked over the comments, and she held a 50-minute meeting with Mr Blair after a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday.

A further meeting, described as a "progress report" on Iraq, took place on Friday.

Ms Short said she and the prime minister had discussed the three points which she set out last week as being of vital importance on Iraq: the Middle East peace process, the need for a UN mandate on reconstruction of Iraq and the importance of UN support for a second resolution on Iraq.

She said: "I am feeling more optimistic that progress is being made."

Ms Short added that she was delighted by the US' statement on the publication of its "road map" for a Middle East peace process.

She said she hoped there would now be progress on the other two areas.

Engaged

In an interview on Thursday, Ms Short had said she was glad about making her public threat to resign.

The minister told the BBC her colleagues had been civil at cabinet and had engaged in constructive discussion about the continuing diplomacy at the UN, the general situation in the Middle East, and the prospects for reconstruction of Iraq.

Ms Short admitted she might have irritated other ministers, but said they understood why she had made a stand.

"It was fine. I know those people very well and they know me. I might have irritated them

"[But] they know I am concerned about the situation - I am not playing games.

"It wasn't a bad atmosphere at all."

Blair occupied

Many commentators have said it is almost without precedent for a minister to make comments like those made by Ms Short and remain in post.

But Mr Blair is totally occupied with the current diplomacy round and war preparations and does not want to make a martyr of Ms Short or further split the party, it has been speculated.

Ms Short indicated she had no regrets about making her comments when she did.

"I said what I said because I was fearful that we were just going to end up in conflict without everything being properly attended to.

"I did it because I thought it was necessary to draw attention to these things."

Ms Short said any attack on Iraq risked a disaster with 60% of the population dependent on the oil-for-food programme.

"If there's any conflict and that's disrupted this is 19 million people.

"Things have got to move very fast or you really would have a humanitarian disaster."




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