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Blair not flavour of Palestine's week

    Quartet Representative Tony Blair
    Quartet Representative Tony Blair

    The Palestinian Authority is furious with former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, the Mideast envoy of the international Quartet, for applying diplomatic pressure on President Mahmoud Abbas not to seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN.

    Nabil Shaath, the senior Palestinian negotiator, said on Saturday that "over the last few years, he [Mr Blair] played a minor part. The first thing that interested him was to satisfy the Israelis." But Mr Shaath denied reports by the Palestinian news agency, Maan, that the Palestinian leadership was considering boycotting Mr Blair, who has been in post for four years.

    One unnamed senior Palestinian official accused Mr Blair, who is envoy to the Middle East of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations), as "behaving like an Israeli diplomat, not an international envoy." The Palestinians are particularly angry at the role played by Mr Blair last month in the pressure on President Abbas not to request full member-state's rights from the UN Security Council, because they expected a degree of support from the Quartet, especially the EU component, to counterbalance the opposition from the Obama administration. The Quartet's new proposal, for an immediate return to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has also angered them as it does not include their demand for a freeze on settlement building.

    Mr Blair spends on average a week a month in the region, with his offices based in the American Colony Hotel in east Jerusalem. Last week spokespeople for him and Israeli industrialist Ofra Strauss denied reports, based on rumours that have been going around Israel for months, that the two are romantically attached.

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