U.K. police 'to delay Blair interview'

LONDON, July 24 (UPI) -- British police are to delay interviewing Prime Minister Tony Blair over corruption claims due to stalling by key Labor figures, it was reported Monday.

Detectives had planned to question Blair by the end of September as part of an investigation into allegations that he nominated wealthy businessmen for parliamentary seats in exchange for large cash loans to the Labor Party.


But they are now likely to postpone the interview, because Lord Levy, Blair's chief fundraiser and envoy to the Middle East, has refused to answer questions following his arrest 12 days ago.

A senior Whitehall source told the Times of London that Levy, who is also Blair's tennis partner, had handed police a written statement and responded "no comment" when pressed further.

The police could not proceed quickly without Levy's responses, the source said. "Lord Levy's decision to take up a 'no comment' position has put police in a difficult place... They will have to seek other ways of obtaining information they believe he has access to."

Prosecution sources had previously indicated that detectives planned to interview the prime minister before the Labor Party conference in September. But the source said it would now "almost certainly" be delayed until later in the year.


The news will no doubt prompt speculation that Downing Street or the Labor Party is attempting to obstruct the inquiry, hoping it will founder because of lack of evidence.

It could also be seen as an attempt to allow the prime minister to resign of his own volition, rather than be forced to quit due to the scandal. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott hinted during a BBC interview Sunday that Blair could announce his departure date at the Labor conference, saying he thought a leadership contest would be held "very shortly."

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