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Blair 'Optimistic' As He Receives Mandate of Mideast Quartet


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is optimistic the Middle East peace process can regain momentum.

Following meetings among members of the international Quartet of Middle East mediators in Lisbon, Portugal, Mr. Blair said that for his first trip to the region he will "listen, to absorb and to reflect" before making any recommendations.

Mr. Blair's duties include raising funds for the Palestinians and developing their infrastructure and economy.

In a statement at the end of Wednesday's meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, Quartet members expressed support for the Palestinian Authority government and welcomed President Bush's renewed commitment to a negotiated two-state solution.

Thursday's meeting was the highest-level Quartet talks since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip last month in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Monday, President Bush announced he would like to hold an international conference on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit says the conference will take place on the sidelines of September's United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

The Quartet consists of the U.S., Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP`.

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