Britain’s House of Commons supported Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy on Iraq today by defeating a motion opposing military action against Saddam Hussein.

Share story

LONDON — Britain’s House of Commons supported Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy on Iraq today by defeating a motion opposing military action against Saddam Hussein.

But many rebel legislators in Blair’s Labor Party voted against his Iraq policy — which already has prompted three ministers to resign — showing that opposition to war remains strong.

With a U.S.-led war appearing increasingly inevitable, legislators voted 396 to 217 to defeat a parliamentary amendment by Labor Party rebels that declared the case for war “has not yet been established.”

Last month, a similar parliamentary showdown over Iraq saw 122 Labor lawmakers vote against the government, the biggest revolt since the party came to power in 1997.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“Back away from this confrontation now and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects,” Blair said Thursday, during hours of debate before the vote.

In a second vote later Tuesday, legislators were expected to approve the government’s resolution supporting the use of “all means necessary” to ensure Iraq’s disarmament.

In Britain, where public and legislative opposition to a war without U.N. approval is strong, an invasion could present Blair’s government with serious risks, especially if U.S. and British forces in the Gulf aren’t successful.

In today’s Commons debate, Blair said the Iraq crisis would determine the shape of international politics for a generation.

“Back away from this confrontation now and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects,” he said.

Blair said far more was at stake than disarming Saddam — the fundamental framework of international relations was being re-examined.

“It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st century; the development of the United Nations; the relationship between Europe and the United States; the relations within the European Union; and the way that the United States engages with the rest of the world.

“So it could hardly be more important. It will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation,” Blair said.

Many disaffected Labor Party legislators have ignored party discipline and opposed Blair’s handling of the crisis. Already, senior Cabinet minister Robin Cook and two other officials — junior Health Minister Lord Hunt and Home Office Minister John Denham — have quit over Iraq.