Short quits with attack on Blair

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Clare Short quit as International Development Secretary today, with a farewell mauling over Iraq for Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Clare Short quit as International Development Secretary today, with a farewell mauling over Iraq for Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

She accused Mr Blair of breaching assurances he had given her about the United Nations' role in post-conflict Iraq.

And she said Mr Blair and Mr Straw had "secretly negotiated" a UN Security Council resolution which contradicted assurances she had given to MPs in the Commons about "the legal authority of the occupying powers".

Ms Short told the Prime Minister she was resigning in a telephone call to Downing Street shortly after 10am today.

She then released her devastating resignation letter, which will be seized on by opponents of the war and critics of the role played by Britain and America in rebuilding Iraq.

Ms Short told Mr Blair in her letter: "I am afraid that the assurances you gave me about the need for a UN mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government have been breached.

"The Security Council resolution that you and Jack have so secretly negotiated contradicts the assurances I have given in the House of Commons and elsewhere about the legal authority of the occupying powers, and the need for a UN–led process to establish a legitimate Iraqi government. This makes my position impossible."

After assuring Mr Blair that she was proud of her work at the Department she has served for six years, Ms Short wrote: "I am sad and sorry that it has ended like this."

Mr Blair swiftly appointed Foreign Office Minister Baroness Amos to replace Ms Short as International Development Secretary.

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Howard said: "This Government really does seem to be falling apart. "

He told Sky News: "This is the second major Cabinet resignation we have had within weeks."

Commons Leader Robin Cook quit his post before the conflict began over his opposition to Mr Blair's hardline stance.

Mr Howard said "faction fighting" was now rife within the Government.

Ms Short's decision ends weeks of speculation about her future after she publicly criticised Mr Blair's stand on Iraq as "reckless".

She had said she would resign if the United Nations did not approve military action.

She decided to stay on at her department, but speculation mounted again last week when she missed a crunch Commons vote on foundation hospitals on Wednesday night and then failed to attend Cabinet on Thursday.

Ms Short left her offices, at the Department for International Development, in Palace Street, central London, at 11.15am in a dark green saloon car.

Sitting in the back seat of the car, she smiled for waiting photographers but made no comment.

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