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British Minister Resigns Over Iraq

March 17, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ A senior British Cabinet minister resigned Monday after disagreeing with the government’s decision to back military action against Iraq.

Robin Cook quit his post as the government’s leader in the House of Commons after a private meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

``I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support,″ Cook said in a statement to Press Association, the British news agency.

Cook resigned shortly after Britain and the United States abandoned their efforts at the United Nations to get approval for military action. For many lawmakers in Blair’s Labor Party, that resolution had been the price of their support for war.

As Blair prepared for a potentially damaging debate in the House of Commons Tuesday on Iraq policy, the prime minister could draw some comfort that there were no other resignations. Clare Short, who last weekend criticized Blair’s policy as ``reckless″ and threatened to resign as minister for international development, remained in the Cabinet.

Short said nothing to reporters as she left the Cabinet meeting.

Cook was foreign secretary in Blair’s first government in 1997, but was replaced by Jack Straw in 2001. In his resignation to Blair, Cook praised the prime minister and Straw for their ``heroic efforts″ to secure a new U.S. resolution.

``It is not your fault that those attempts failed,″ he wrote.

``However, the evident importance that we attached to a second resolution makes it all the more difficult to proceed without one, and without agreement in any other international forum.″

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