Gordon Brown is to appoint his own envoy to the Middle East, The Guardian said Saturday, suggesting it would set up a fresh clash between him and his predecessor as British prime minister, Tony Blair.
The newspaper said former BBC journalist Michael Williams’s appointment would be confirmed next week.
The 58-year-old is a senior United Nations official and worked as a special adviser to former British foreign secretaries Robin Cook and Jack Straw.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whom Brown meets in New York on Tuesday, appointed Williams to be special co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in May.
His new role for Brown was previously carried out under Blair by the former prime minister’s close friend and the governing Labour Party’s main fundraiser Lord Michael Levy.
He will have to work alongside Blair, who was appointed as a special envoy for the Middle East Quartet of the UN, United States, Russia and the European Union.
Blair briefed diplomats from 21 countries and 10 international organisations in London on Friday.
Downing Street refused to confirm names for the role, but said an appointment would be made.
The Guardian said Brown discussed the switch with Ban when he came to London for talks last month. It was being seen as an indication that he wants to carve out his own policy on the Middle East.
“If he works on the economic road map, Williams will be playing on the same pitch as Blair, and Blair is a bigger and better player,” one unnamed diplomat was quoted as saying.
The daily also said Williams would be welcomed by the Palestinians and other Arab countries, as they saw Levy as too close to Israel, while Blair was widely believed to be influenced by Washington and Jerusalem.
Blair’s 10 years in power were marked by the often troubled dynamic with Brown, who served as finance minister throughout his time in Downing Street.