Thu, Nov 10, 2005 - Page 7 News List

`Concerned' Blair recalls big guns for crucial security vote

AFP , LONDON

The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair recalled two senior ministers from overseas trips for a high-stakes vote yesterday on controversial anti-terrorism laws.

Amid concern about the degree of opposition to the proposals, the government recalled Foreign Secretary Jack Straw from Russia and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown from Israel shortly after they had arrived in those countries.

"The foreign secretary will be returning to the UK for the vote," but would still have the time to attend meetings involving his French, German and Russian counterparts, a foreign office spokeswoman said.

"He will attend the EU troika [British, German and French diplomats] meeting and then fly back. He was meant to be in Moscow today for meetings but he is returning a little early," she said.

Brown said he was summoned back from Israel for the vote on anti-terrorism measures, including one that extends the period for which suspects can be detained from the current 14 days to 90 days without charge.

Blair, who had long backed police demands for such an extension in the wake of the July 7 London bombings, faced a rebellion last week by fellow members in the governing Labour Party seeking to set the limit at 28 days.

"On important issues of national security, one of the most important votes we will have in this parliament, it is important that all of us who can be there are going to be there," Brown said.

Brown spent only minutes in Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in the early hours of yesterday morning before boarding a plane back home after receiving a message from Government Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong.

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