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EDITIONS
 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 09:41 GMT
Blair holds more Mid-East talks
King Abdullah
Tony Blair met President Abdullah in Aqaba
Tony Blair has interrupted his holiday in Egypt for a second time for talks with King Abdullah of Jordan.

As with his earlier talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the Middle East peace process and tensions over Iraq were on the agenda on Thursday.

King Abudullah is among those Arab leaders warning against any war on Iraq.

Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie, met the king and Queen Rania for a private dinner at the royal residence in the Jordanian port Aqaba.

On Thursday, US President George Bush warned Saddam Hussein that his "day of reckoning" was coming.

Mr Bush said he was "hopeful we won't have to go to war" but repeated that he doubted Iraq's willingness to disarm.

Gloomy message

Earlier, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz accused America of "imperialist designs" and said it was preparing to invade to seize control of Iraq's oil resources

The Blairs have been holidaying in the Red Sea holiday resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

The UK Prime Minister held two hours of talks at a private dinner in the resort with President Mubarak on Wednesday.

Hosni Mubarak
Middle East peace was on the agenda for the talks with Mubarak
The meetings come after Mr Blair's gloomy New Year forecast about threats to Britain from international terrorism and the troubled world economy.

That message drew criticism from the Conservatives, who accused Mr Blair of trying to divert attention from domestic problems.

In one of his most downbeat annual bulletins, Mr Blair cited Iraq, al-Qaeda, the Middle East and North Korea as concerns which would exacerbate problems in faltering world markets.

Distraction?

But the deputy leader of the Conservative party, Michael Ancram, said voters were more interested in Labour's "failure to deliver" on the domestic front.

These included "crises" in the health service, schools, law and order and pensions, he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy urged Mr Blair to ensure UN inspectors had time to establish the truth about Iraq's weapons programmes, before taking any decision on military action.

He also urged him to "pay more attention to what is happening here at home".

Earlier this week, Labour veteran Lord Healey warned Mr Blair against repeating the "disastrous" decision of Tory Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, who went to war in the Middle East over Suez in 1956, at a time of similar international tension.

See also:

03 Jan 03 | Middle East
31 Dec 02 | Politics
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