Blair holds firm on 'Star Wars' support

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair refused to water down his support for President George Bush's "Son of Star Wars" missile defence plans yesterday, despite heavy criticism from several fellow Labour MPs.

Mr Blair was asked three times at Prime Minister's Question Time whether he was prepared to review his backing for the project in the light of 11 September and the need for international co-operation.

Some 219 Labour backbenchers, more than half of the Parliamentary Labour Party, have signed a Commons motion expressing "concern" at President Bush's national missile defence plans.

But the Prime Minister said that he remained of the view that "defensive and offensive" systems should be considered to counter the threat of nuclear attack from rogue states.

"I don't agree with those that are opposed to it," he bluntly told the Commons, following a question from Julian Lewis, the Tory MP for New Forest East. "We will continue to work closely with the US in all these areas. We understand the role that missile defence could play as one element of that comprehensive strategy. But, as yet, we have had no specific proposal from the US."

Challenged by the Father of the House, Labour's Tam Dalyell, Mr Blair insisted that his private position was exactly the same as his public position over the issue.

Mr Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, had asked: "There is no foundation, is there, to press reports that you have already given undertakings of support to President Bush and that they will be made public once certain difficulties in the Labour Party are over?"