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Walter Rodgers: Blair risks losing job over Iraq

CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers
CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers

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CNN's Walter Rodgers says British Prime Minister Tony Blair could split his party and alienate his two biggest European partners (January 30)
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- As British Prime Minister Tony Blair begins talks at Camp David, Maryland, with U.S. President Bush, CNN Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers has this perspective on the mood of Blair's constituency.

RODGERS: In Britain's House of Commons, they were nipping at the heels of Prime Minister Tony Blair before he left for the United States.

"The British people know Saddam is an evil dictator ... but isn't it also the case they want to know more about the potential threat that he poses to this country and our citizens?" Conservative opposition leader Iain Duncan-Smith asked Blair.

Blair now risks splitting his own party, alienating his two biggest partners in Europe -- France and Germany -- and perhaps even losing office, so unpopular is his support for war with Iraq in Britain.

Yet with zeal, he presses on.

"If Saddam Hussein is allowed to carry on weapons of mass destruction, chemical biological, potentially nuclear, he is not just a threat to his own region, he is a threat to the world," Blair said.

One London newspaper, the Daily Mirror, even used a massive projector to put its anti-war message on the parliament building itself.

"If it goes wrong, Tony Blair could be gone by Christmas, and that's why he's looking tired. He's looking stressed," says Piers Morgan, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mirror.

"And I think he's fractious with the media, fractious with the British public, and all the public too is 75 to 80 percent against this war."

Meanwhile Blair has sustained the verbal attack on the Iraqi leader.

"Who can doubt that Saddam is in breach of his U.N. obligations?" Blair asked.

In a perfect world the British prime minister would like the U.S. president to agree to more time for U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq. (Full story)

Tony Blair flew to Washington by way of Madrid, where he held talks with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Aznar.
Tony Blair flew to Washington by way of Madrid, where he held talks with his Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Aznar.

He would also like American agreement on a second U.N. resolution, to appease Britain's doubters and naysayers.

"He has this core sense in the international field there are just binary right or wrong decisions. He's always been that way," says Michael Elliot of TIME magazine.

So today Iraq -- but after that?

"After we deal with Iraq, we then do, yes, through the United Nations, again we have to confront North Korea about its weapons program," Blair says.

The long knives will be out for Blair if a war goes badly. And the greatest challenge is likely to come from within his own Labour Party.

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