Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 17:44 UK

Diplomats struggle to free Booth

Lauren Booth in Gaza
Lauren Booth must wait in Gaza while her status is decided

The Foreign Office has confirmed it has not yet managed to secure the release of Tony Blair's sister-in law Lauren Booth from Gaza.

Ms Booth arrived with activists from the Free Gaza Movement on 23 August but says she has been stopped from leaving.

A Foreign Office spokesman said UK diplomats in Israel, Gaza and Egypt were working hard to free Ms Booth.

A spokesman for Tony Blair's office said the ex-PM did not intend to get involved in the dispute.

Peace boat

Ms Booth arrived in the Gaza Strip on a "peace boat" with 45 other activists to publicise Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.

The work is being done by British consulate officials and we are happy to leave it to them
Tony Blair's spokesman

Whilst most of her fellow protesters left on the same boats they arrived on last week, she and several other activists chose to remain behind to do human rights work.

Ms Booth said she has been trying to leave Gaza since Friday, but has been turned away at Israeli and Egyptian border crossings on three occasions.

However, sources claim that Ms Booth was offered an opportunity to leave Gaza over the weekend, but she declined to take it up.

Ms Booth could not reached in Gaza, where she is thought to be staying in a hotel while officials wrangle over her status.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are providing help to Ms Booth and the other activists who have remained in Gaza.

"Foreign Office staff in Jerusalem, Gaza and Cairo have all been working to help them leave, but this is not an easy situation."

A spokesman for Mr Blair, who is currently visiting Jerusalem in his role as an official Middle East peace envoy, said the former prime minister was not able to assist his wife's half-sister.

No help

He said: "The work is being done by British consulate officials and we are happy to leave it to them."

Access for residents and journalists in and out of Gaza is notoriously difficult at the best of times. The fact that Ms Booth arrived on the strip in an unorthodox manner is understood to be delaying her release even further.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said his government was still deciding whether to let her into Israel. He said Israel, like any country, has the right to decide who enters its territory.

He said: "This is something she should have thought about before entering Gaza. Nothing was coordinated with Israel."

Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment.




SEE ALSO
Activists challenge Gaza blockade
05 Aug 08 |  Middle East


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