Blair Ally: Britain Won't Join War

Britain would not commit forces to a conflict with Iraq unless Prime Minister Tony Blair was convinced it was the best available option, one of his closest political allies was quoted as saying in press reports Monday.

With public opposition becoming increasingly vocal, former Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson also said Blair would not act without the support of political and public opinion, The Times reported.

President Bush has called for Saddam's ouster and has threatened unspecified consequences if weapons inspectors are not allowed to return to Iraq under U.N. terms. U.S. officials are talking openly about a new war with Iraq.

"While the prime minister will not want to weaken in any sense on the stance he has taken, naturally he will not commit Britain to engaging in military action unless and until it is clear that that is the best option available and political and public opinion has been prepared to support it," Mandelson was quoted as telling The Times.

Mandelson, a former trade secretary, also criticized what he called ``mixed messages'' from Washington, an apparent reference to the perception that the U.S. Defense Department is more hawkish than the State Department.

"They therefore cannot be surprised that Europe and the world is reacting in a confused way when the message we are getting from the administration is not clear," Mandelson was quoted as saying.

A new poll for the Daily Telegraph by Internet pollsters YouGov, found that 19 percent of those asked believed Britain should join any U.S. military action against Iraq.

Thirty-two percent said Britain should support the United States diplomatically but not militarily, 29 percent said Britain should distance itself from the Americans and 17 percent said Britain should publicly condemn the United States.

YouGov, a polling service that selects respondents from a pool of 56,000 volunteers, conducted online interviews between Aug. 8 and Aug. 11 with 2,147 adults. No margin of error was given.