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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Labour Avoids Vote on Iraq War

BOURNEMOUTH, England -- Prime Minister Tony Blair's ruling Labour Party on Wednesday blocked a debate at its convention on a motion criticizing the Iraq war and calling for British troops to be brought home.

Some Labour Party members, incensed that the government joined the U.S.-led war without explicit United Nations backing, have tried to present an emergency motion that declares the war unjustified and calls on British troops to be brought home.

But Margaret Wheeler, chairman of the conference arrangements committee, told delegates Wednesday that the motion did not satisfy party rules for an emergency motion, and thus would not be put to a debate.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union, which proposed the motion, failed to overturn the ruling.

Alice Mahon, a Labour member of Parliament and a fierce critic of the war, accused the party hierarchy of stifling debate because it feared it would lose the vote.

"When we've got people still being killed in Iraq and blown up, I do not know how more contemporary you could get," Mahon said.

Delegates were allowed a 75-minute debate on the war during a specially extended session entitled "Britain in the World." Wheeler said there would also be a vote on a party policy document which deals with the conflict.

The RMT union complained the vote would be meaningless.

"Unless this emergency motion is put on the agenda, we will be denied the chance to vote on whether the war in Iraq was justified," RMT delegate Mick Cook said.

Dissent about the war has been evident at the annual meeting, and Blair said he did not know whether he would ever win over the opponents to military action.

However, he said he thought Iraqis who lived under Saddam Hussein might be able to persuade skeptics that war was justified.

"I think if those people, their voices were given a greater hearing, I think that would persuade a lot of people," Blair told BBC radio Wednesday morning.

"When you talk to these people they say, have you any idea what it was like to live under a fascist state? And they say, look, whatever the reasons -- you know, weapons of mass destruction and all the rest of it -- just let us tell you what it was like to live under Saddam."

Blair defended his decision to go to war in his keynote speech to the party Tuesday.

"Iraq has divided the international community, it has divided the party, the country, families, friends. And I know many people are disappointed, hurt, angry," he said.

"I ask just one thing: Attack my decision, but at least understand why I took it and why I would take the same decision again."