MUSLIM leaders gave Jack Straw one of the "biggest grillings" of his political career when he faced local concerns over the Iraq crisis.

The closed meeting with the Lancashire Council of Mosques in Bangor Street Community Centre, Blackburn, was described as tense and angry.

The representatives expressed their concerns over potential military action to depose Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the US and British moves towards war without a second UN resolution.

Mr Straw admitted that he had suffered a grilling from the 50 members but said he had been among "friends", although there were claims afterwards that Muslims' unconditional support for the Blackburn MP at the next election was under threat.

The meeting was attended by executive committee delegates, who represent the Muslim community across Lancashire.

Chairman Ibrahim Master said that the council was concerned about the adverse impact a war may have on community cohesion in Britain and throughout the world.

Salim Mulla, a Labour councillor and executive member of the Council of Mosques, said: "I think the Foreign Secretary has had one of the biggest grillings he has ever had from Muslim leaders here in the Blackburn community."

Mr Straw said: "It was a good grilling but I was among friends.

"People of the Lancashire Council of Mosques feel very strongly and it was an active discussion.

"Everybody expressed their opinion about military action.

"People have very strong opinions and that is entirely understandable.

"I was taking them through the 1441 resolution and in no circumstances do I want to go to war.

"I hope that people come to accept the decisions that people in Parliament make."

He added: "I would much rather have been among friends who said they agreed with my opinion."

Imtiaz Patel, an executive member of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: "A few people nearly walked out. They were very angry.

"His answers were full of information but you cannot fill the people with political information.

"We don't know whether that's the truth.

"Next time the voting in Blackburn will be conditional, it used to be unconditional.

"It is a clear cut message to Jack Straw from the Muslim community."

Mr Master said: "We appreciate the Foreign Secretary's willingness to listen to the Muslim community's concerns.

"The Lancashire Council of Mosques used the opportunity to express concern over the proposed action against Iraq and communicate that the Muslim electorate are against this action."

Ismail Yusuf Lorgart, another executive member of the council, said he would leave the Labour Party, of which he was a member, if UK bombs start dropping on Iraq.

He added that the US would be committing evil acts if they started killing innocent people and that this could create sympathy for any terrorist reprisals.