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Blair Backs Cook in Marriage Spat

January 10, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed confidence in Foreign Secretary Robin Cook on Sunday, after Cook’s ex-wife published a critical book about their marriage that was splashed across the front pages of most of Britain’s national newspapers.

In the book, serialized in The Sunday Times newspaper, Margaret Cook criticizes her former husband’s character and alleges he had a series of adulterous relationships before their 28-year marriage broke up in 1997.

She also contends her former husband once had a drinking problem _ an allegation vigorously denied by colleagues who worked closely with him at the time.

``A cheat, a liar and a drunk,″ the tabloid Express on Sunday blared, under a much smaller headline reading ``Vicious Attack on Robin Cook in Ex-Wife’s Bombshell Book.″

``Shaming of Robin Cook,″ said the headline on The Mail on Sunday. The broadsheet Observer chimed in with a banner headline reading ``Cook `a drinker and philanderer.‴

Cook, 52, married his former secretary, Gaynor Regan, in April, four weeks after his highly publicized divorce from Mrs. Cook, an eminent physician in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said, ``Robin Cook will make no response to his ex-wife’s account of their marriage. The foreign secretary is getting on with his work.″

Blair said, ``I have every confidence in the job that Robin Cook does _ he does a superb job on behalf of the government and the country.″

Speaking on BBC television, the prime minister said, ``We have a very simple choice, as a government and as a country.

``We can either have a news agenda that is dominated by scandal and gossip and trivia or we can have it dominated by the things that really matter, the things that are fundamental to the direction of the country.

``Judge us on the things that we promised to deliver,″ Blair said.

Asked if there was any chance of Cook resigning, Blair said, ``Absolutely not.″

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