Did Bush Force British Minister Out?

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with the Prime Minister, London, Friday, May 5, 2006. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair fired his law and order chief Friday and chose a new foreign secretary in a wide-ranging Cabinet shuffle a day after his party took a pounding in England's local authority elections. Blair removed Straw as foreign secretary, replacing him with Margaret Beckett, the first woman to hold the job. (AP Photo/Sang Tan) AP Photo

Two London papers have speculated this weekend that complaints by President George W. Bush forced a British minister from his post because of his opposition to the use of nuclear force against Iran.

The Independent suggests that a phone call from the U.S. president to British Prime Minister Tony Blair led to the removal of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Friday.

The newspaper reports that friends of Straw believe Mr. Bush was extremely upset when Straw pronounced any use of nuclear weapons against Iran "nuts."

Both The Independent and the Guardian write that Straw's "fate was sealed" after a White House phone call to Blair.

Straw played a key role in more than two years of talks between Tehran and the European trio of Britain, France and Germany aimed at resolving the standoff over Iran's nuclear program. Negotiations broke down earlier this year when Iran said it was resuming its uranium enrichment activities.

With the confrontation likely to grind on, Straw appeared more reluctant than Blair to consider military action and may have been unwilling to put aside such differences a second time.

Blair and Straw denied they disagreed on Iran, both said no one was talking about an attack on Iran.

Blair reshuffled his Cabinet Friday, a day after his Labour Party took a pounding in local elections. The Labour Party pulled 26 percent of the vote to the Conservatives 40 percent, a result that renewed calls from some quarters for the prime minister to step down.

Straw, 59, regularly described military action against Tehran as "inconceivable," a word neither Blair nor U.S. leaders would use.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., Straw called reports that Washington had contingency plans for a tactical nuclear strike "completely nuts."

Straw said Britain would not launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran and he was as "certain as he could be" that neither would the United States. He said he has a high suspicion that Iran is developing a civil nuclear capability that in turn could be used for nuclear weapons, but there is "no smoking gun" to prove it and rationalize abandoning the plodding diplomatic process.
  • Sean Alfano

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