Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Blair calls for Middle East plan

Britain should encourage a "whole-region approach" towards the Middle East to establish democratic societies there, former prime minister Tony Blair has said.

Appearing on BBC1's Breakfast programme, Mr Blair discussed the military situation in Libya and contrasted it with the turbulence elsewhere in the region.

Mr Blair - a special envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East diplomatic group - said he supported military action to weaken Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

But he also pointed to "very complex religious and tribal elements" to justify different approaches to different regimes.

He said: "You need a plan that goes beyond simply saying 'Well, here are the people we condemn, here are the people we support', but a plan for reconstructing these countries. In Syria, for example, today you have got many of the same issues (as in Libya) and the question is, how do we engage with these people?"

Mr Blair said economic, social and religious freedom should be encouraged in addition to political reform.

He said: "Whether it's in Libya or Egypt, Tunisia or any of these countries where there's change coming, we want to try and make sure that that change gives us the prospect of proper democratic societies where people are able not just to vote in and out their government but to live in peace and stability with the rest of us."

Mr Blair also defended his decision to deal with Gaddafi as prime minister in 2004. He said Britain had been right to do so at the time - and right to condemn and "go after him" now.

He said: "When he gave up his nuclear and chemical weapons programmes, this was a huge thing for us. He stopped sponsoring terrorism, he started actually co-operating. It was a big change.

"There was a hope, which turned out to be misplaced, that the regime would change, that if it changed its foreign policy, that maybe it would change its domestic policy."


From Belfast Telegraph