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LONDON (AP) -- A senior British Cabinet minister resigned Monday after disagreeing with the government's decision to back military action against Iraq.
Robin Cook, a former foreign secretary, resigned his post as the government's leader in the House of Commons after a private meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The two met before an emergency meeting of the full Cabinet that was called by Blair, according to the prime minister's office.
Blair faces a major revolt within his governing Labor Party over his decision to back President Bush in using force to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Earlier Monday, Britain and the United States abandoned their efforts to get U.N. approval for military action.
Many in the Labor Party oppose military action without explicit U.N. approval.
Cook is expected to lead opposition in government during a debate in the next day or two over Blair's handling of the crisis.
Although Blair faces considerable discontent among his lawmakers, he is expected to survive any vote.
Cook was foreign secretary in Blair's first government in 1997, but was replaced by Jack Straw in 2001.
International aid minister Clare Short, who has criticized Blair's policy as "reckless," also has threatened to leave the Cabinet.
Earlier, a move to war was backed by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, who said that the authority to use force against Iraq stemmed from the combined effect of three U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"All of these resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter which allows the use of force for the express purpose of restoring international peace and security," said Goldsmith in legal advice published Monday.
On Sunday, Blair met with Bush and the leaders of Spain and Portugal on the mid-Atlantic Azores Islands. The leaders gave the United Nations a 24-hour deadline to endorse the use of force to compel Iraq's immediate disarmament.
But the United States, Britain and Spain withdrew their U.N. resolution on Iraq on Monday, ending efforts to get U.N. backing for military action.
"We're now in a very serious situation and decisions on military action will have to be taken shortly," Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "If it's clear that Saddam is not going to disarm, (and) I think we're increasingly coming to that conclusion, it may well then be necessary to remove Saddam Hussein."
In an analysis of the legality of war published Monday, Goldsmith said that U.N. resolution 1441, which gave Saddam a final opportunity to disarm or face "serious consequences" and was passed unanimously by the Security Council in November, is backed up by two earlier resolutions.
Britain advised all of its citizens except diplomatic staff to leave Kuwait as soon as possible on Monday. It said it feared Britons were at risk from chemical and biological attacks by Iraq or by terrorists.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)