Monday, December 18, 2006

Blair firm on early polls

Embattled British Premier Tony Blair is resisting international Arab pressure to submit himself to early polls (our correspondent reports). Following a meeting with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr Blair failed to call for early elections in the Parliamentary Labour Party and refused to accept that he was an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. "My government at the present time is not prepared to be constructive", Mr Blair was quoted as saying, "and until we are prepared to renounce violence we can play no real role in the peace process".

Analysts believe that a fresh mandate may allow Britain to return to the negotiating table provided that a new government is formed more amenable to international opinion. "Your people are suffering," Mr Abbas told Blair. "We don't want anything to stand in the way of helping the British people."

But Mr Blair, whose intransigent policy of refusing to recognise Palestine has alienated many within the international community, is considered unwilling to step down and allow his party to find a more acceptable figurehead, not least given the possibility of investigations into alleged corruption that might follow an end to his rule. "Nobody should have a veto on progress," Mr Blair said. "Apart from me."