BUSH SCRAPS HIS VISIT TO BLAIR
By Ian Smith
Daily Mirror, UK - 14 March:
GEORGE BUSH abandoned plans yesterday to fly to London to support his crisis-hit ally Tony Blair.
The US President wanted the last-minute visit to boost morale as Blair tries desperately to get United Nations backing for war in Iraq.
But sources said Downing Street advised against the trip because the sight of Bush would anger rebel Labour backbenchers rather than pacify them.
Blair faces fury in his party and the country if he goes to war without the UN.
The pressure built yesterday after a Cabinet meeting where Leader of the House Robin Cook threatened to resign if Britain goes it alone.
But thousands of troops and tanks continued to move towards the border between Kuwait and Iraq.
Roads in the north of Kuwait were jammed with army vehicles as bases further from the war zone emptied.
Experts said war could begin as early as the start of next week.
But the battles yesterday were still over diplomacy and politics.
Livingston MP Cook used yesterday's Cabinet meeting to put more pressure on Blair.
A source said Cook "put down a marker post" during a long and tense debate over Iraq that he was ready to resign.
International Development Secretary Clare Short also repeated her threat to quit the Cabinet. She and Cook believe a war without the UN would break international law.
Blair fended off any immediate resignations by promising an emergency Cabinet meeting if the diplomatic process breaks down.
But as well as Cook and Short, he faces losing several junior ministers if the talks at the UN fail. There would also be a massive rebellion by Labour MPs.
Blair's official spokesman refused to deny that Cook and Short had said they would resign.
But he insisted the Cabinet was united on the bid to get the second resolution.
He said: "There were a number of interventions and a number of points made. But the Cabinet is absolutely behind the desire to get a second resolution and behind the need to see Saddam disarmed."
In Washington, aides to Bush insisted he cancelled his London trip because it was too late to organise it properly. They also promised Blair a few days more breathing space to try to win a deal at the UN.