Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Blair tactics in Mideast

Wednesday, June 27th 2007

BY MATTHEW KALMAN in Jerusalem and

Tony Blair, who is leaving 10 Downing St. today after 10 years as Britain's prime minister, is expected to take on a new role as a special Mideast peace envoy.

Members of the international Quartet - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - will announce the appointment simultaneously today, as long as some last-minute objections on Moscow's part can be resolved, officials said.

Quartet officials met in Jerusalem yesterday to discuss the post, said Marc Otte, the EU delegate to the Mideast peace process. He said he did not know what Russia's reservations were, but hoped they could be resolved.

"Prime Minister Blair ... has shown an interest and a readiness to be useful," Otte told the Daily News. "He offered to be of help in a particular juncture of the peace process."

In London, Blair's answer to reporters' questions suggested he was at least considering the job.

"I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential," said Blair, who hands over power today to Gordon Brown.

Blair is expected to concentrate on political and economic reform to bolster the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Israeli leaders welcomed the news of Blair's expected appointment.

A statement from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office called him "a true friend." An official from Abbas' Fatah Party, which now rules only the West Bank, said, "We need all the help we can get."

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