|British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
under political pressure from within his own party, has promised to step
down within one year. The British leader made the announcement in London
Thursday in a bid to dampen dissatisfaction within his Labor Party.
Faced with a brewing mutiny from some Labor Party members, Prime
Minister Blair said this month's annual party conference will be his last,
meaning he will leave office sometime within the next year. But he refused
to be pinned down to a specific date, as some party politicians demanded.
"I'm not going to say it, a precise date, now," he said. "I don't think
that's right. I will do that at a future date, and I'll do it in the
interests of the country, and depending on the circumstances of the time."
The announcement came after a tumultuous 24 hours in British politics
that saw the resignations of a junior minister and seven senior aides, and
a reportedly tense meeting between Blair and his expected successor,
Blair has been in office since 1997. Calls have been growing within the
party for him to step down to reinvigorate the Labor Party's political
fortunes, as recent polls have shown a sharp decline in support. Last
week, 17 Labor Party parliamentarians signed a letter calling for a change
Blair previously said only that he would not run in the next
parliamentary elections, which must be held some time before June 2010.
Blair loyalists accused Brown supporters of
mounting what some of them labeled a coup, to force Blair to step aside to
make way for
become party leader, and thus prime minister.
Speaking in Scotland
Thursday, Brown said the decision on when to leave is Blair's alone, and
he will support whatever the prime minister decides.
"But I want to make it absolutely clear today that, when I met the
prime minister yesterday, I said to him, as I have said on many occasions
to him and repeat today, that it is for him to make the decision," he
said. "I said also to him, and I make clear again today, that I will
support him in the decisions he makes, that this cannot, and should not,
be about private arrangements, but what is in the best interest of our
party, and, most of all, in the best interests of our country. And, I will
support him in doing exactly that."
But it is still not clear if Blair's statement will satisfy the
dissidents who want the prime minister to leave sooner. Some Labor Party
politicians have voiced concern that the dissent is tearing the party
apart, and only works in favor of the opposition Conservative Party.
Blair apologized for the public party squabbles,
saying that "this is not been the Labor Party's finest hour."