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Blair supports Sharon plan

by: Michael Drudge - Last updated: 2004-04-17

Tony Blair and George Bush

Tony Blair and George Bush

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Palestinians will miss an opportunity to begin building their own state, if they continue to reject the Israeli prime minister's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Blair says the international Middle East road map to peace remains viable, despite the controversy over Israel's intention to remove Jewish settlers from all of the Gaza Strip and sections of the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders have rejected the Israeli plan, because some large Jewish settlements would remain intact in the West Bank, while Palestinians could not reclaim land they lost inside Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948. President Bush's endorsement of the plan has further inflamed Palestinian public opinion.

Prime Minister Blair, who met with Mr. Bush in Washington Friday, told British radio Palestinians should seize the proposed Israeli withdrawal as an opportunity to begin building their own country.

"Surely, the sensible reaction for the international community is to say to the Palestinians: 'Right. We will now help you economically, politically, in security terms build the beginnings of a Palestinian Authority capable of wielding power and running a Palestinian state.' Of course it's not the road map," said Tony Blair. "But it's a way into the road map. It's not a final negotiated settlement, but it's at least an opportunity to get going on the business of building a state."

The "road map" refers to a peace plan drawn up by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia that would give Israel security guarantees and create a Palestinian state.

Story supplied by: VOAnews