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Britain's Blair fights revolt within his party

By TIMES WIRES
Published September 7, 2006


LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair was locked in a fight Wednesday to keep control over when he leaves office, with 15 Labor Party lawmakers demanding he step down. They included eight junior members who resigned to protest his refusal to do so.

Blair's office could not immediately confirm reports that the prime minister intended to make a public statement on his future today.

The revolt of low-level officials was unlikely to dislodge Blair from office, though it could help force him to speed up his departure and raised fears the eventual change of command in Britain would be rancorous and messy.

Blair has said he will not seek another term, and pressure for him to announce a departure date has intensified in recent weeks, fueled by widespread anger at his handling of fighting between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants.

Terror case: British authorities on Wednesday charged two suspects with preparing an act of terrorism in an alleged plot to blow up jetliners bound for the United States, bringing to 17 the number formally charged. Three other suspects were released.

Elsewhere ...

Mexico: Newly named President-elect Felipe Calderon started building his administration Wednesday. He has offered to sit down and negotiate with opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but Lopez Obrador says he will never recognize a Calderon presidency.

Iran: The military unveiled its first locally manufactured fighter plane Wednesday during large-scale military exercises, state-run television reported. The report said the bomber Saegheh is similar to the American F-18 fighter plane, but "more powerful." It also said the plane was "designed, optimized and improved by Iranian experts." Iran also abruptly announced that last-ditch talks on its disputed nuclear program scheduled for Wednesday were postponed.

[Last modified September 7, 2006, 01:20:53]


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