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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 August 2006, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Blair starts holiday with UN plea
Tony Blair
Tony Blair delayed his holiday for a number of days

Tony Blair is beginning his delayed holiday to the Caribbean after saying he hopes to see a UN resolution on the Middle East crisis agreed by Wednesday.

The prime minister has now left London to join his family in Barbados but says he will do all he can to help the talks while he is away.

He urged the international community to "get down and get it done without delay" on the resolution.

Israel has told south Lebanon residents it will escalate operations there.

Israel launched about 80 air strikes against Lebanon overnight. Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon fired more than 140 rockets on Israel.

Consensus hopes

While Mr Blair is away, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott is expected to take control of the day-to-day running of the country.

Mr Blair spoke to BBC News on Tuesday morning as a delegation from the Arab League travelled to New York to try to persuade the UN Security Council to change its draft resolution to call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces.

He told the BBC he believed the aims of both Israel and Lebanon could be met and suggested there could be consensus.

I don't think the idea is actually for British ground forces to be in there
Tony Blair

"I think we can achieve what the Lebanese government want to see as well as what the Israeli government wants to see, which is the government of Lebanon back in full charge of its own territory without leaving a vacuum in which the Hezbollah militia can move in," he said.

"I think we need to do three things really now - the first is that we need to take account obviously of any reasonable representations made about the existing UN resolution.

"The second thing, however, is to get it down and get it done without delay.

"Let's get the resolution which will call for the cessation of hostilities and then thirdly that will give us the space in which to deal with the long term solution, both for the Lebanon, which is putting the government of Lebanon back in charge of its country.

"And also, and I believe this very, very strongly, to return to the Israel-Palestine question, which I think is completely fundamental to the whole of the issues in the Middle East."

The draft resolution is not expected to go to a vote at the UN until Wednesday.

Humanitarian help

Mr Blair defended his decision not to call for an "immediate" ceasefire, saying the situation was "complicated".

But the UK would be more involved in providing humanitarian aid and rebuilding Lebanon's infrastructure, he promised.

British charities say they are struggling to deliver aid to the worst-affected parts of Lebanon without a ceasefire.

Mr Blair insisted he would stay in charge of the government's response to the conflict while on his break and would keep in touch with other world leaders.






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