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Tony Blair: Middle East was my priority

Tony Blair at the Iraq war enquiry
Tony Blair at the Iraq war enquiry

Tony Blair has told the Iraq war inquiry that the Middle East process had been his priority for dealing with Islamic extremism, and that he was “frustrated” that the US had not done more.

Mr Blair said he kept pushing the Israel-Palestine issue: “You could describe me as a broken record through this period.”

But he stressed that he did not trade peace in the Middle East for the war in Iraq. He said: “It would not have been right to make [the Middle East] a pre-condition.

“I did not trade one policy for another. I would not have done Iraq if I hadn’t thought it was right, regardless of the Middle East peace process.”

He said he did not impose conditions on former US President George W Bush to help him in the Middle East, insisting “The US/UK relationship is "an alliance", not a "contract.”

Sir Roderic Lyne, regarded as one of the toughest questioners on the inquiry’s panel, quoted former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying Mr Blair was “relentless” in trying to persuade the Americans to deal with Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Blair responded that it had been a matter of “huge frustration” that it had not happened quicker, and implying he had not been satisfied with the American position.

But he added that he had been successful in persuading the Americans to adopt the “road-map for peace” in the Middle East in 2003.

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