Friday 14 March 2003

Bush Gives His Dog a Bone

Reprieve for Blair as he wins delay on UN vote

Embattled Tony Blair was tossed a grudging morsel of support by President Bush yesterday, winning a delay for a UN vote on war with Iraq.

Facing huge domestic opposition to military action, Mr Blair begged Mr Bush in a 20-minute phone call for more time to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

A vote on a second UN resolution could now be delayed to next week or even as late as March 24.

A White House official said: "Mr Blair has been a good friend to us. We're returning the favour because of his domestic circumstances. But there's no more wiggle room."

As it stands, the resolution - backed by the US, Britain and Spain - sets a Monday deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm. Mr Bush originally wanted a vote by the end of this week.

Yesterday Mr Blair asked Mr Bush to give a UK compromise deal, demanding Saddam meet six tests, the chance to succeed.

The White House, aware that the chances of a second resolution look slimmer than ever before, agreed.

But it also confirmed that it might not even bother with a second vote and wage war under the authority of previous UN resolutions.

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