British Prime Minister Tony Blair says
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the core of bringing
peace to the Middle East and he is urging Iran to join in the effort to
bring peace to the region.
Speaking at a gala dinner in London's historic Guildhall, Mr. Blair
spoke of the threat of terrorism and accused internal and external
elements of deliberately trying to drive Iraq toward civil war. He said
the conflict in Iraq has evolved and so, he advocates, must the strategy
to resolve it.
Part of the effort, he said, must be what he called a "whole Middle
East" strategy, which focuses on relieving "pressure points" throughout
the region. First and foremost, the prime minister said, is the
"We should then make progress on Lebanon," said Tony Blair. "We should
unite all moderate Arab and Muslim voices behind a push for peace in those
countries but also in Iraq. We should be standing up for, empowering,
respecting those with a moderate and modern view of the faith of Islam
Mr. Blair accused Iran of using these "pressure points," to hinder any
Middle East peace efforts. He said Iran is following a clear strategy that
must be answered with an equally clear one.
"We offer Iran a clear strategic choice: they help the Middle East
peace process not hinder it; they stop supporting terrorism in Lebanon or
Iraq; they abide by it, not flout their international obligations. In that
case, a new partnership is possible," he said. "Or, alternatively they
face the consequences of not doing so: isolation."
Mr. Blair's speech did not indicate any dramatic shifts in policy,
rather it reiterated much of what the prime minister has been saying for
some time - that terrorism is the scourge of the 21st century, that it
can only be fought globally and that ending the violence in Afghanistan
and Iraq can best be done through a broader regional approach, in which
nations such as Iran and Syria can play a positive role.
On Tuesday, Mr. Blair will likely take much the same message to the
Americans, in a video-conference session, when he addresses the bipartisan
US Study Group on Iraq.