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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 14:25 GMT
Blair sends Israel sympathy
Tony Blair with Yasser Arafat in Gaza
Blair hopes for peace talks now seem more distant
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed sympathy with the Israeli government as he condemned the bombings in Israel.

Downing Street has called on the Palestinian authority to do everything it can to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.

The basic reality is that this is not going to go away, the participants have to talk to one another

Downing Street
Mr Blair spoke to US President George Bush for half an hour on Tuesday about the Middle East crisis and the two leaders are striking a similar tone.

The prime minister is also stressing that dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians must begin again - however long it takes.

'Attempt to derail peace'

Mr Blair's official spokesman told reporters on Tuesday the attacks in Israel were the work of people "who have no respect for life".

They "have deliberately and calculatedly tried to stop the renewed efforts in the peace process", continued the spokesman.

Speaking about the conversation with President Bush, he said: "Both leaders expressed concern at the unfolding situation, their sympathy with the Israeli government in the aftermath of the atrocities."

They also stressed the need for "everyone to do everything they can to stabilise the situation".

In contrast to some previous incidents, there was no call from Downing Street for Israeli restraint as the country's prime minister, Ariel Sharon launched a second day of attacks on Palestinian targets.

Instead, the spokesman said: "We have to deal with the realities of the situation.

"Everybody should do everything they can. The response should be commensurate with the process of trying to get dialogue going as quickly as possible."

'No buttering up'

Mr Blair's recent shuttle diplomacy has included trips to both Israel and the Palestinian authority.

The recent attacks now make the hopes of progress he expressed during those trips more distant.

Downing Street is vigorously defending his efforts towards reviving the peace process and rejects any suggestion that the UK was "buttering up" to states sponsoring terrorism.

Officials stress: "The basic reality is that this is not going to go away, the participants have to talk to one another."

Mr Blair has said he wants to see a Palestinian state alongside an Israel that can feel secure.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Downing Street defends Blair trip
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