Over 100 Labour MPs demand a recall of parliament

MORE than 100 Labour MPs yesterday demanded a recall of parliament to debate the Lebanon crisis, as Israel launched a major ground offensive and a UN peace propos al appeared close to being accepted.

Organisers of the call for an emergency session - backed by a number of ex-ministers - said they expected more than a quarter of all the country's 646 MPs to support the move.

In a letter delivered yesterday to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, they said the long summer break should be cut short "as soon as practically possible".

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The numbers underline the strength of feeling on Tony Blair's backbenches, and elsewhere, over the government's policy towards the battle between Israel and Hezbollah.

The Prime Minister's failure to join calls for an immediate ceasefire, and the use of UK airports for American arms flights to Israel, have fuelled growing hostility.

A list of 101 Labour signatories, published with the letter, included ex-ministers John Denham, Frank Dobson, Kate Hoey, Keith Vaz, Clare Short and Geoffrey Robinson.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, is also among the signatories, with many of his 62 MPs, and Scottish and Welsh nationalists, thought to be swelling the numbers to around 175.

A fresh appeal for an immediate ceasefire was also made by Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, yesterday.

"Humanitarian assistance must urgently reach the civilian population, which has suffered too much during this conflict," he said.

But sources suggested the campaign for a recall of parliament is extremely unlikely to succeed.

• Dozens of protesters gathered outside Downing Street last night calling on the government to back an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.

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Supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and The British Muslim Initiative were joined by members of CND and Jews for Justice for Palestinians to lay flowers representing those who had died in the conflict.