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Blair Welcomes Bush's Pledge to Publish 'Road Map' for Middle East Peace - 2003-03-14

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is welcoming President Bush's pledge to publish a "road map" to Middle East peace. Mr. Bush says the plan will be announced as soon as Palestinians confirm a new prime minister, with what he called real authority.

Prime Minister Blair told a news conference the pledge from President Bush had been long anticipated, and should be welcomed.

"Now today we have the American president committing himself to the publication of the road map," Mr. Blair said. "That is what people have sought. That is what people have been working for. That's what people have been arguing for. And this is a big step forward."

Mr. Blair also tried to deflect questions about the timing of the Bush announcement from Arab reporters who noted it comes ahead of what appears to be a looming war with Iraq.

Mr. Blair said people had been demanding more even-handedness in dealing with the Middle East conflict and the Iraq crisis.

He said the Bush plan is a step toward that more balanced approach.