zondag, juli 30, 2006

The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair, the sequel...

Artikel uit The Telegraph van vandaag. Grappig hoe internationale en binnenlandse politiek telkens weer aan elkaar worden geknoopt. De continue speculaties over het aftreden van Blair waren de laatste maanden weer wat verminderd. Een internationale crisis later staat er alweer iemand anders aan de poten van zijn stoel te zagen. Een "gedumpte" minister van Buitenlandse Zaken dan nog. Over een onderwerp waarin hij in het verleden nu niet direct dezelfde posities innam als nu. Wie heeft Jack Straw (net als zijn baas een vurig voorstander van de invasie in Irak) immers horen oproepen tot een reactie op Israël toen hij zelf nog minister was? Het gevecht over de controle binnen Labour na Blair gaat onverminderd voort. Misschien hoop Straw -aangezien Gordon Brown alleen maar de volgende verkiezingen kan verliezen- om zelf die plaats te kunnen vervullen...

Straw leads revolt against Blair over Israel crisis
By Patrick Hennessy in San Francisco

(Filed: 30/07/2006)

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, is leading a growing Cabinet revolt against Tony Blair's handling of the Middle East crisis.

Mr Straw heaped pressure on the Prime Minister by describing Israeli attacks on Lebanon as "disproportionate" and accusing Israel of escalating an already dangerous situation.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw: 'Concerns'

But Mr Blair, who is on a five-day visit to the United States, refused to utter any criticism of Israeli aggression and even rewrote a speech to make it clear that he pins the blame for the crisis solely on Hezbollah terrorists.

His position appeared increasingly difficult as an array of ministers called for a different response.

Mr Straw, demoted to Commons Leader by Mr Blair, sent out by far the strongest condemnation of Israel. In a statement to Muslim leaders in his Blackburn constituency this weekend, he said: "Disproportionate action only escalates an already dangerous situation.

"One of many serious concerns I have is that the continuation of such tactics by the Israelis could further destabilise the already fragile Lebanese nation."

He acknowledged the right of the Israelis to defend themselves against terrorists and expressed sympathy for Israeli victims of the conflict - but also for the "10 times as many" Lebanese civilians killed or injured.

It is the most serious rebellion over foreign policy Mr Blair has faced since two Cabinet ministers - Robin Cook and Clare Short - resigned over the 2003 Iraq war.

Condoleezza Rice, the United States secretary of state, was back in Israel last night to again try to broker an end to the bloody conflict.

Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert
Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert

Miss Rice, who dined with Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said she hoped for agreement on the main conditions for a ceasefire which would be outlined in a UN resolution tabled early this week.

"I expect the discussions to be difficult, but there will have to be give and take," she said. "I assume and have every reason to believe that leadership on both sides of this crisis would like to see it end."

In an address tonight to executives at Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in Pebble Beach, California, Mr Blair will warn that the West has done too little to stamp out the "underlying cause" of the Lebanon conflict - Islamic terrorism.

The Prime Minister, who during his visit has stood shoulder to shoulder with President George W Bush on the crisis, will make no excuses for the Iraq war and claim that Middle East bloodshed will get worse if the West goes into "waiting mode".

His rhetoric will alarm Cabinet ministers openly protesting that Britain's stance towards Israel is too weak.

Mr Blair won't 'apologise for being a friend of the US'

Relations between Downing Street and the Foreign Office are said to be at a very low point. Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, has protested publicly about America's unauthorised use of Prestwick airport as a stop-off point for planes carrying bunker-busting bombs to Israel.

President Bush apologised personally to Mr Blair, but this weekend, two more flights carrying "hazardous" cargoes bound for Israel were refuelling at Prestwick.

Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, has told MPs that Israel's decision to bomb Lebanese power stations was "not a proportionate response" while two of Mr Blair's strongest Cabinet supporters - David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, and Lord Grocott, the Labour chief whip in the Lords - said at a Cabinet meeting that Britain should adopt a tougher line towards Israel.

Mr Blair last night tried to play down the split. Speaking on US television, he said: "There was a perfectly good discussion at the Cabinet actually and it certainly wasn't a divisive discussion at all."

But he again refused to condemn Israel, saying: "I will never apologise for being a friend of the United States."

Mr Blair's isolation could bring forward his exit from No 10 - which had been expected in a year. One Cabinet-level source said: "Tony badly needs friends on this - and he hasn't got many."

29 July 2006: Bush and Blair agree on ceasefire, but don't say so
28 July 2006: You're all targets, Israel tells Lebanese in South
28 July 2006: Diplomats argue as all of south Lebanon is targeted

Leader: Blame terror
Matthew d'Ancona: Master and servant
Niall Ferguson: Superman returns
Dilip Hiro: Old enemies
War with Syria edges closer
US pursuit of 'new Middle East'
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US gunman shoots six Jews

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