February 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Major Wins Key Vote Over Arms Sales To Iraq

Associated Press

Prime Minister John Major narrowly won a key vote Monday on an inquiry into military sales to Iraq, saving his embattled Conservative government from being forced to call a vote of confidence.

The Conservatives won by a wafer-thin 320-319 vote, which was greeted with shouts of relief in the House of Commons. The vote came at the end of a furious seven-hour debate over the judicial report, which found that government ministers deceived Parliament about the sales to Iraq in the late 1980s.

Major has only a two-seat majority in the 651-member Commons. At least one Conservative voted against the government, along with three other lawmakers who have defected from the government in the past few months.

Earlier, Margaret Thatcher, prime minister until November 1990, disputed a basic finding of the report by Judge Sir Richard Scott that several ministers secretly relaxed restraints on arms sales to Iraq in 1988. She maintained there was no change in the restraints, but “the interpretation of the guidelines evolved.”

“If there was no change in the guidelines - and there was not - then the question of deliberately misleading the House does not arise,” Thatcher explained in a rare appearance in the House of Lords.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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