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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Blair urges new Mid-East peace drive
Hosni Mubarak and Tony Blair
Mubarak: Blair is important 'peace' figure
A fresh Middle East peace process is needed to end the cycle of violence gripping the region, Tony Blair has told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Blair insisted that the ground needed to be prepared before negotiations towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians could begin.


I can't believe that people want to continue living in this way

Tony Blair
Discussions between the two men at Downing Street were overshadowed after a suicide bomber struck at a bus at Megiddo junction, near the West Bank, killing 17 people, including the attacker.

The bombing prompted apparent retaliation from Israeli forces who have moved into the West Bank town of Jenin with helicopter gunships firing missiles at buildings.

Mr Blair offered condolences on behalf of the British people, stressing that it was "impossible to describe the agony and the hurt that the people will feel".

Bridging the gap

Mr Mubarak, who is on his way to meet US President George Bush, said he made the visit to Mr Blair because he was "one of the most important figures in the peace process".

After the meeting, Mr Blair insisted: "Israelis are not going to disappear and the Palestinians are not going to disappear.

"People either find a way of living together or we carry on this terrible situation in which innocent civilians, who have nothing to do with politics, have their lives disfigured and loved ones lost in acts of terrorism and violence."

Mr Blair added: "At the present time, there is a huge gulf, obviously, between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Everyone is working hard to bridge that."

Mr Mubarak is expected to press President Bush to spearhead a timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state to end the troubles.

Palestinian state

Mr Bush will next week meet Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

But Mr Blair warned: "I think it's important to get a process under way, but we need to prepare the ground for it. We can't just wish it and it happens.

"But when I sit there and look at what's happening in the Middle East, I can't believe that people want to continue living in this way."

The prime minister said the creation of a viable Palestinian state and giving Israel the confidence of its own security were two fixed principles for dealing with the crisis.

"Then people can sit down and work out how to get there," he said.

Mr Mubarak agreed and added his condemnation to the Middle East violence.


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05 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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