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Blair: Addressing Mideast Conflict Will Help in Iraq


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he welcomes the renewed focus on resolving the Israel - Palestinian dispute. Mr. Blair, who made the comment on U.S. television Sunday, has long held the view that the Palestinian dispute is critical to resolving the crisis in Iraq, which was also a key finding of the Iraq Study Group report that was issued last week. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Washington.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is one of the world's leading voices on the importance of resolving the Middle East conflict.

"I think the key diplomatic push is on Israel-Palestine, [which] is my view, and I totally welcome what the [ISG] report says on that, and I think we've got to move forward on that, very much," said Tony Blair.

His comments came Sunday on the ABC television program This Week. He said there is what he called a "profound struggle" in the Middle East between the forces of moderation and extremism, which he added could affect the region's future.

"I have a view that this is part of something which is far bigger, which is basically about whether we can create a sufficiently strong alliance of, as I say, moderate and modernizing people across the whole of the region of the Middle East, that we turn it in a different direction," he said.

Former congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, agreed with the British leader. He said in its report on Iraq issued last week, the 10-member commission also emphasized the urgent importance of seriously dealing with the Palestinian-Israel dispute.

"The reason you want to address - we didn't say solve, but address - the Arab-Israeli problem is you must do that in order to appeal to the moderate Arabs, who are our friends in the region and who can be very helpful in Iraq," said Lee Hamilton. "The emphasis on the moderate Arabs in the prime minister's [Blair] statement is right on the mark."

He spoke on the CBS television program, Face the Nation. His colleague, the Iraq Study Group chairman, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, says the people of the Middle East are facing a choice between democracy and dictatorship.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blair raised his concerns about the need for a comprehensive Middle East solution during a meeting last week with President Bush at the White House. The British leader says he is going to the region soon, to try to push for a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

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