U.K. Minister Who Called Blair's Iraq Policy 'Reckless' Quits

A senior minister who called Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search) policy on Iraq "reckless," but clung to office through the war, resigned from the Cabinet on Monday, her office said.

Clare Short's decision to step down as secretary for International Development followed a fresh controversy over her missing a critical House of Commons (search) vote last week on the government's new hospitals policy.

Short outraged some and puzzled many when she didn't follow through on a threat to resign from Blair's Cabinet if he committed Britain to an Iraq war that lacked United Nations (search) backing.

She violated a longstanding rule that bars Cabinet members from openly criticizing government policy when, in a British Broadcasting Corp. radio interview, she used harsh language to disagree with Blair's Iraq stance.

"I'm afraid that I think the whole atmosphere of the current situation is deeply reckless -- reckless for the world, reckless for the undermining of the U.N. in this disorderly world ... reckless with our government, reckless with his own future, position and place in history," she said in the interview on March 9.

With dissent brewing in his Labor Party ahead of the war, most thought Blair would fire Short immediately.

But he didn't, and when war came -- without the U.N. mandate Short had demanded -- she stayed put.

Opposition lawmakers and some British newspapers pilloried her for failing to follow through on her promise to step down, but she said she it was wrong to give up her international development job when such a daunting rebuilding task was imminent.

Short raised more eyebrows when she failed to turn up for last week's important vote in the House of Commons on government plans for reform of the health service. She later said she had made a mistake over the timing of the vote, which the government won despite opposition from 65 lawmakers from Blair's own Labor Party.

A spokesman for Downing St. confirmed that Short had resigned.