Tony Blair plans to use the margins of the Johannesburg earth summit to rally
support for US President George Bush's increasingly unpopular war on terrorism.
As dissent grows over Mr Blair's backing for a US-led attack on Iraq, the Prime
Minister is determined to shore up allies.
But even within the US, there are increasing doubts. Henry Kissinger, the former
secretary of state and foreign policy guru, and Brent Scowcroft, President George
Bush senior's former national security adviser, have both expressed their disquiet.
On Friday the President said he was aware "some very intelligent people" were
expressing opinions, and that he was listening to the debate. But he added: "I'll
be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence, and how best to protect
our own country plus our friends and allies."
It is not yet decided whom the Prime Minister will meet in South Africa, but
sources said he was sure to speak to as many leaders as possible, and Iraq would
be on the agenda.
The summit will follow a diplomatic drive by Mr Blair that has already seen
him break his holiday to hold informal talks with his French counterpart, Jean-Pierre
Raffarin. He also plans to meet King Faud of Saudi Arabia to try to reassure him
about the stance of the US and Britain towards Iraq.
Mr Blair is also under pressure at home. Robin Cook, the Leader of the House,
has been asked by Labour backbench dissidents to be a voice against the war in
Cabinet. And the anti-war movement in and out of Parliament is gathering momentum.
The Prime Minister has also been criticized by the Tories for failing to condemn
the decision of African nations to nominate Libya to chair the UNHCR.
In a letter to Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, her opposite
number, Caroline Spelman, called for reform of the human rights commission and
for the UK to "show leadership in preventing the UN Human Rights Commission falling
into the hands of serious human rights abusers". Ms Spelman said that progress
on human rights should not be sacrificed in the name of better relations with
Human Rights Watch has also condemned the decision, claiming it was a "real
setback" to put a country with a poor human rights record in charge of the commission.
But the Foreign Office said last night: "Regardless of nationality the role
of the chair is specific. The UK is committed to protecting human rights worldwide.''
© 2002 lndependent Digital (UK) Ltd