Photo: Reuters
British PM Tony Blair
Photo: Reuters
UK's Blair to urge Syria, Iran to help in Middle East
British Prime Minister, in contrast to Bush, seeks to engage nations despite their associations with violence in ME region

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will call on Monday for Syria and Iran to be engaged in efforts to stem violence in Iraq and to secure a broader Middle East peace settlement.


Blair will argue the need for a Middle East strategy that includes making clear to Damascus and Tehran how they can help in the region while warning them of the consequences of hindering peace, a spokeswoman said.


His comments, to be made in an annual foreign policy speech, will show his willingness to work with Syria and Iran on Iraq - an idea so far spurned by U.S. President George W. Bush, who is fiercely critical of both countries.


Blair's remarks come on the day Bush meets a US bipartisan panel that is exploring alternative strategies on Iraq.  Engaging with Syria and Iran on Iraq is an idea favored by some members of the panel, which is co-chaired by former US Secretary of State James Baker.


Blair, Bush's top ally on Iraq, will address the panel, the Iraq Study Group, via video link on Tuesday. Bush is now considering a shift in approach to Iraq after his Republican Party lost control of both houses of Congress, largely because of anger over the war.


Pressure leads to changing approach

Pressure on both leaders to find a way to gradually withdraw their troops from Iraq is growing as the death toll mounts. Four British soldiers were killed in southern Iraq on Sunday.


A broad strategy for the region must include bringing peace to Palestine and Lebanon, Blair will say.

Blair has made Middle East peace a key goal of his last months in office. He is expected to step down by mid-2007.


The strategy would make clear "to Syria and Iran the basis on which they can help the peaceful development of the Middle East rather than hinder it, and the consequences of not doing so," the spokeswoman added.


She could not elaborate on the nature of the consequences.


Blair, whose popularity has been severely dented by Iraq and his alliance with Bush, will also argue that Britain must stay close to America and to the European Union as partnerships with like-minded nations are key as new powers emerge in the world.


"Anti-Americanism or Euroscepticism are not merely foolish, they are the surest route to the destruction of our true national interest," Blair will say in a familiar message.


"When people say: yes, but we want a British foreign policy, I say: of course we do, but in today's world a foreign policy based on strong alliances is the only British policy which works," he intends to add. 


פרסום ראשון: 11.13.06, 02:57
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