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After election loss, Blair makes moves

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 6, 2006


LONDON - Stung by an election defeat, Tony Blair shuffled his Cabinet on Friday and replaced Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in an attempt to save his own political future and shore up support to tackle crises in Iran and Iraq.

Straw had privately expressed doubts about the Iraq war and publicly took a different stance on Iran. He described military action against Tehran as "inconceivable," something neither Blair nor President Bush would say.

Margaret Beckett, a Blair loyalist who has been serving as environment secretary, takes over the Foreign Office, becoming Britain's first female foreign secretary.

Two ministers at the center of a series of recent government woes also were fired or demoted.

But critics said Blair should step aside after voters deserted his Labor Party in local council elections Thursday. The results - Labor won 26 percent of the vote to the Tories' 40 percent - were widely seen as a referendum on Blair and his troubled government.

"It'll take far more than a reshuffle," opposition Conservative leader David Cameron said.

Beckett, 63, is a veteran politician but has little experience in foreign affairs beyond her participation in international climate change talks.

In August 2002, though, Beckett was one of the most senior critics of a prospective U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq, raising concerns about the impact an invasion would have on the Iraqi population.

[Last modified May 6, 2006, 07:55:38]


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