Tony Blair is wanted to step down

British Prime Minister &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Tony Blair was finalizing his third-term ministerial appointments Monday as he moved to face down calls for him to quit.

Blair will tell Labour MPs he will not leave office early when they meet later this week for the first time since last week's election, aides said. The British PM has come under fierce attack from Labour party backbenchers since his majority was slashed from 161 to 67.

On Monday former minister &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Clare Short joined the chorus of senior politicians urging him to quit. "I think it would be best for him (Blair) and for the government and for the Labour Party if he announced that he was going pretty soon and we agreed a process for selecting a new leader around the time of (party) conference," she told the BBC.

Blair has pledged he will not run for a fourth term. But already polls show that about half the British public would prefer him to step down before the next general elections.

Blair's less cuddly, more intellectual and more traditional left-wing economy chief &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Gordon Brown is widely seen as Britain's prime minister in waiting. Many would like to see him take the reins as soon as next year. This weekend, British newspapers were already speculating as to when Blair may bow out and what direction a "Brownite" Labour would take Britain.

Such an administration would probably change Britain's economy very little, since Brown is largely responsible for the fact that the average Briton is better off today than when Labour came to power eight years ago. Mr. Brown would continue many of the policies the two leaders have drawn up together, including their recent campaign to make poverty reduction in Africa a global priority. He would increase his efforts to win US support for radical new policies to reduce third-world debt.

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