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Police Grill Blair's Chief Party Fundraiser
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Police probing British political party funding questioned the chief fundraiser for Tony Blair's ruling Labor Party yesterday amid growing speculation that the prime minister may soon be quizzed by detectives.


Police sources confirmed that Lord Levy, arrested on Wednesday and then released on bail, had returned to a London police station to be interviewed again.


Police are investigating allegations that state honors were awarded in return for cash in an escalating row that has damaged Blair's standing and increased calls for his resignation.


Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is heading the police probe, went behind closed doors yesterday to give an update on his investigation to members of parliament on a committee that scrutinizes the government.


Michael Levy, 62, has denied any wrongdoing and accused the police of using their arrest powers "totally unnecessarily." On Wednesday, he was released on bail without charge pending further enquiries.


"The waters are lapping around the prime minister's ankles," Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond said after the arrest.


Blair faced a barrage of damaging headlines about the row reaching the door of his Downing Street residence. "Blair faces police quiz," said the Sun tabloid. "Police quiz Blair next," declared the Daily Mail.


MORI pollster Robert Worcester said: "I think it is one of the many nails in Blair's coffin. His authority is dissipating day by day and his loyalists are fewer and fewer. The Praetorian Guard is being depleted."


The Labor party came under pressure after it said it had received nearly 14 million pounds (US$26 million) in loans from 12 businessmen, some of whom were nominated for seats in Britain's unelected upper house of parliament.


Britain has a complicated system of awards and decorations. A law was introduced in 1925 making it illegal to sell seats in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, after government abuses.


(China Daily July 14, 2006)


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