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the Guardian/UK

Blair as Peace Envoy Would Be 'Disaster for Palestinians'

Conal Urquhart

GAZA CITY - It is unlikely that Tony Blair will get a warm welcome in Gaza City or anywhere in the Palestinian territories if he is confirmed as the Quartet's new Middle East peace envoy.

In recent years, Mr Blair and by association Britain have become perceived as supporters of the US and Israel and antagonists of Arab and Palestinian interests. 0626 07

Mohammed Taher, 32, a civil servant, described the appointment of Mr Blair as "a disaster" for Palestinians. "We have been saying for a long time that Blair is nothing more than George Bush's poodle. We remember his stance on Iraq and Britain's lead role in imposing an embargo on the Palestinian Authority after we did not vote the correct way," he said.

"It's difficult to see how he can be neutral and independent after the positions he has taken. The envoy should be someone who has good relations with both sides not just one side."

The Gaza Strip is now undergoing its second year of economic embargo. There is enough food but other items such as cigarettes are running out. According to Riad Musa, 29, an officer in a non-governmental organisation, in recent years Britain's foreign policy has become indistinguishable from that of the US.

However, there was one voice that was more supportive. Itidad, 29, an Arabic language teacher, said that Mr Blair's experience and profile could force the different parties to reach an agreement.

"I think it's positive that an envoy is someone of the stature of Tony Blair. He represents a strong country which has played a big historical role in the Middle East." she said.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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