British Minister Resigns Over Postwar Iraq Policy

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair's outspoken aid minister resigned from his government Monday, angrily accusing him of breaking a promise that the United Nations would have a leading role in postwar Iraq.

Clare Short, who fiercely criticized Blair's "reckless" stance over Iraq just days before British troops joined the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, said his approach to Iraq's reconstruction made her position impossible.

She was the second senior minister to resign from Blair's Cabinet over the war, which was opposed by many members of his ruling Labour Party and which triggered a major parliamentary rebellion in March.

Blair's office announced soon afterward it was replacing her with Baroness Amos, a junior Foreign Office minister.

The speed of the replacement suggested Blair had been preparing to remove her anyway, and analysts doubted the exit of Short, 57, would have a major impact on the government.

"As you know, I thought the run-up to the conflict in Iraq was mishandled, but I agreed to stay in the government to help support the reconstruction effort for the people of Iraq," Short wrote in her resignation letter to Blair.

"I am afraid that the assurances you gave me about the need for a UN mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government have been breached," she said.

She accused Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of secretly negotiating a UN resolution that contradicted assurances she had given to parliament about "the need for a UN-led process to establish a legitimate Iraqi government."

"This makes my position impossible," she said.

Before the war, Short said she would resign if a UN resolution authorizing military action were not secured.

That resolution never came, prompting another senior minister, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, to resign.

However, Short backtracked and stayed in the job she loved, where she was highly regarded by the aid community and across the developing world.

But her blunt attack suggested her days in government were numbered. Speculation over her future was heightened last week when she missed a Cabinet meeting and a key parliamentary vote on government health reforms.

Short, one of only three Cabinet ministers to have held the same office since Blair took power in 1997, never shied away from controversy in a government that has made iron discipline and unity its watchwords.

She openly attacked Blair's fondness for media management, calling last year for an end to the "obsession with spin."

"We have to ... let the truth speak for itself and not try to manipulate the media," she said in March.