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Major wins party's backing for unity

Prime Minister John Major warned Friday that Britain would be making a serious mistake if it held back from European union, telling skeptics that "we can't pull up the drawbridge and live in our own private yesterday."

In a keynote speech to delegates at the annual Conservative Party conference, Major said those who would turn their backs on Europe were Don Quixotes "fighting imaginary battles."

The speech ended a four-day conference that highlighted deep splits within the party over Britain's stance toward Europe and Major's economic policy. After last month's currency crisis, Major had to delay submitting to Parliament the Maastricht treaty on European union until after Christmas while he seeks strict limits on the power of European Community bureaucrats in Brussels.

On Europe, Major managed to win reluctant support from the party conference. On economic policy, however, delegates left almost as unsure of the government's intentions as when they arrived.

The conference boosted Major's chances of winning parliamentary approval of the Maastricht treaty. On Tuesday, after a raucous debate, delegates voted their support for Major's ratification drive.

Major said Friday he realizes that for many party members, "the heart pulls in one direction and the head in another" on Europe. But he insisted that the treaty was "right for British industry, right for British jobs, right for British prosperity."

To reject the treaty would be "leaving European policy to the French and the Germans," Major said. "It would be an historic mistake."

With the party's backing in hand, Major now turns to the other members of the European Community for help in keeping Britain from dropping out of Europe's "fast lane" toward unity. As holder of the EC's rotating presidency he has called a one-day summit for Oct. 16 and hopes to win commitments that will make the treaty more palatable to Britons.

The next step on economic policy is not so clear. A speech by Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont on Thursday that attempted to set out the government's plans left delegates puzzled, along with investors and business leaders.

Major promised to hold down government spending and to start "hacking back the jungle" of government regulation. But he offered no new plans for pulling Britain out of its long-running recession.

Still, from Major's point of view it was a satisfactory ending to a conference that earlier this week threatened to split the party in two. Major quelled a threatened revolt over Maastricht, held his own against his charismatic predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, and sidestepped a direct battle on economic issues.

More bombs go off in London: Two suspected car bombs exploded Friday night in London, the fire department said.

There were no reports of casualties.

The blasts follow a series of bombings in the capital that the Irish Republican Army has called a gesture of defiance against the annual conference of the ruling Conservative Party.

Six people have been injured in the bombings.

_ Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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