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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Blair 'appalled' by Mid East violence
Nablus
Israeli tanks roll into the West Bank city of Nablus
Tony Blair is "appalled" by the escalating violence in the Middle East and thinks the situation is the "most explosive" seen for years, Downing Street says.

Number 10 says the prime minister wants to use his weekend summit with President George Bush to discuss how the US can persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to pull back from the "abyss".


This is the most dangerous conflict in the world at the moment

Peter Hain
Europe Minister
The comments came after Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain warned the conflict threatened to draw in the wider international community.

A European Union peace mission has been sent to Jerusalem to mediate but Israel says the EU officials cannot meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Northern Ireland lessons

Downing Street said on Thursday the key for the summit between Mr Blair and Mr Bush in Texas is to get America to exert pressure on the two sides to accept a political process.

Mr Blair, who leaves for America on Friday, believes his experience with the Northern Ireland peace process can "help the USA play this role".

Mr Blair believes the US president is "fully engaged" in peace efforts, but he is likely to argue that more needs to be done.

Javier Solana
Javier Solana with the EU peace mission
Possible military action against Iraq over its alleged build-up of weapons of mass destruction is also on the agenda for the meeting.

Number 10 says no decisions will be taken at the talks, but that Mr Blair hopes he will get a better understanding of the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Opponents of action against Iraq argue such a move could only dangerously enflame the current violence in the Middle East.

Earlier, Mr Hain said diplomacy was the only option for ending the current cycle of violence in the region.

United front

"I am really worried about the escalation of this crisis, not just in the region but internationally, that draws us all in," he said.

Europe minister Peter Hain
Mr Hain: Conflict could engulf the region
The Europe minister said Britain had to stand with the EU, US, United Nations and Russia in calling for an end to the violence.

He denied any suggestion of a split between Europe and the US in the wake of President Bush's comment that he "understood" Israel's "anti-terrorist initiative".

The UN has called for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian areas.

'Dangerous conflict'

Mr Hain told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday: "It is absolutely vital now that we together bring every bit of diplomatic and other pressures to bear on those responsible for the escalating, uncontrollable violence to make sure that we end it ..."

He added: "This is the most dangerous conflict in the world at the moment."

David Satterfield, the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East affairs, told Today that there was "no military solution" to the conflict.

While Israel had the right "to take action in their own defence" against suicide bombings it was also "extremely important for Israel to focus upon where this all leads and whether in the short, medium and long term these steps are contributing to the long-term cessation of violence".

Mr Satterfield said Israel should withdraw its troops from the occupied territories while both sides take "meaningful steps" to end the escalating violence.

See also:

04 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Mid East crisis tests allies
03 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli tanks enter Nablus
03 Apr 02 | Middle East
EU proposes crisis diplomacy
03 Apr 02 | Middle East
US sends mixed signals on Mid-East
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Arafat under attack
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli anger after seven deadly days
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