Defiant Blair tries to ward off war probe

A DEFIANT Tony Blair was today fighting desperately to avoid a damaging defeat at Westminster over a demand for an immediate inquiry into the Iraq War and its aftermath.

Labour whips were frantically trying to persuade rebels - including Edinburgh East MP and former Cabinet Minister Gavin Strang and potentially Midlothian's David Hamilton - not to back the Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats' call for an investigation.

And with the Tories threatening to back the demand unless the Government agrees a full scale investigation once British troops are out of Iraq, an embarrassing defeat and long inquiry was a real prospect.

Up to 30 anti-war Labour MPs could support the motion put forward by the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and with Conservative support that could be enough to overturn the Prime Minister's majority of 62.

A defeat would be a massive blow to Mr Blair's waning authority but his spokesman gave no signs of any backdown.

Speaking from Downing Street last night, he said: "We have an enemy who is looking for any sign of weakness at all, any sign of a loss of resolution or determination.

"The important thing is that we do not give any signal that we are anything less than fully determined to see the job through."

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