LONDON (AP) _ A former governing Labor Party treasury chief on Sunday announced the formation of a new group aimed at stopping Prime Minister Tony Blair from adopting the euro, and predicted a quick collapse of the new European currency.

The move by Denis Healey, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1970s presided over a British balance-of-payments crisis that rocked the pound, reflected a deepening national dispute over whether to abandon sterling.

``An economic recession will require the existing members of (European Monetary Union) to have different interest rates and exchange rates,'' Healey said in an interview with GMTV.

``I myself believe that EMU will probably break down before Blair is called on to take a decision whether or not Britain should join,'' added Healey, now a member of the House of Lords, Britain's unelected upper chamber.

Last week, Blair announced a multimillion dollar package to prepare for a possible switch to the euro.

He called it a ``change of gear'' rather than policy, but it was the firmest indication yet that his government favors adopting the euro after the next national elections. These must be held by early 2002.

Blair has pledged a referendum, and opponents say he is softening up Britain's mainly anti-euro voters by making the adoption of the new currency appear inevitable.

Britain is the only major European Union country not included in the euro, launched by 11 of the 15 members Jan. 1.