MPs attack 'son of Star Wars' project

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Tony Blair came under renewed pressure to distance the Government from American plans for a "son of Star Wars" missile programme yesterday after more than 100 Labour MPs signed a Commons motion attacking the project.

Some 173 backbenchers signed an Early Day Motion expressing concern at President George Bush's intention to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in favour of a nuclear missile defence shield to protect against rogue states.

The MPs, led by Tony Lloyd, the former Foreign Office minister, Peter Kilfoyle, the former Defence minister, and the backbencher Malcolm Savidge, MP for Aberdeen North, included Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists and the SDLP.

The motion opposing the US plan, which reflects widespread unease among Labour party activists, came after a warning this week by Russia's President Vladimir Putin that the world could be on the brink of a new nuclear arms race. Mr Putin suggested that Russia could install more warheads on its missiles as a defensive response to the threat posed by American proposals.

The motion endorses the unanimous conclusion of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which recommended that the Government voice "grave doubts" about the project.