Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blair becomes peace envoy

Tony Blair is to become a Middle East envoy working on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU.

Tony BlairThe announcement comes just hours after he stood down as UK prime minister and shortly before he is expected to quit as a Member of Parliament.

Earlier, Mr Blair said a "solution" to problems in the Middle East was possible but that this would require "huge intensity and work".

Russia was thought to have opposed his appointment but has since agreed to it.

During his final prime minister's questions on Wednesday, Mr Blair was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

'Absolute priority'

Mr Blair told MPs: "The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community - that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution."

Diplomatic sources had told the that frosty relations between Russia and Britain were behind a delay in any announcement.

However, senior UN officials describe Mr Blair as a star player who will bring energy to the Middle East peace process.

Mr Blair, who had been UK prime minister since 1997, was replaced by Gordon Brown on Wednesday.

He has proved a controversial figure in the UK and elsewhere for his decision to lead the UK into the Iraq war.

But he has also been widely praised for his efforts in bringing the peace process to fruition in Northern Ireland.

At prime minister's questions, Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley said: "I just want to say to the prime minister this one word: He has entered into another colossal task.

"I hope that what happened in Northern Ireland will be repeated and at the end of the day he will be able to look back and say it was well worthwhile."

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