Blair faces tough questions on terror legislation

Prime Minister Tony Blair faces tough questions at his monthly news conference Monday over his government's anti-terror legislation and over claims his authority is beginning to slip away.

The main opposition parties and many of Blair's own lawmakers joined forces last week and almost defeated aspects of the Terrorism Bill in Parliament. Now the government is scrambling for a compromise over the most controversial measure in the bill, a plan to detain terror suspects for 90 days without charge.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke was scheduled to hold meetings with opposition lawmakers and appears to be flexible. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph newspaper published Monday, he said the three month period was not "crucial."

Blair, however, is more bullish and continues to insist that police have made a compelling case to hold terror suspects for longer. The issue is causing unrest in Blair's Labour Party and last week the government only avoided defeat by one vote in the House of Commons, the closest it has come to losing during its eight years in power. Following damaging Cabinet splits over education and health policy, and the resignation last week of Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett, a key ally of the prime minister, some are questioning whether Blair is losing his tight grip on power.

Blair has said that he will not seek a fourth term in office.

Although he could serve until 2010, some believe that by announcing his intentions, Blair has weakened his position and become a lame duck, reports the AP. I.L.

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