Britain's Blair not welcome in West Bank

A group of Palestinian lawmakers and intellectuals on Thursday said British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be barred from the Palestinian territories during an upcoming trip to the Middle East, citing Blair's support for Israel during the recent war in Lebanon.

A joint statement published by the Palestinians, most of them moderates who favor a peace agreement with Israel, accused Blair of delaying efforts to reach last month's cease-fire and giving Israel "enough time to continue its destructive mission" in Lebanon, according to AP.

"Tony Blair is persona non grata in our countries, and his visit to Ramallah is a serious provocation to the popular Palestinian sentiments, because he comes here to wash his hands of the blood of the Lebanese in Palestinian waters," said the statement published Thursday in the daily Palestinian al-Ayyam.

"We should not allow him (to come) and not give him the chance to appear as a peace maker. He is a man of violence and a war maker," the statement said. "Accordingly, we ask the Palestinian leadership to tell Tony Blair that the time is not right to come to Palestine."

Palestinian officials said Blair is scheduled to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday. Blair's office has said he plans to go forward with his Mideast trip in the near future, despite political troubles at home inside his Labour Party.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office announced that Blair is scheduled to arrive in the region Saturday and meet with the Israeli leader.

In London, an official in Blair's office said the schedule for the visit still hasn't been set and wouldn't say whether a meeting with Abbas is planned. But the spokesman said the trip is aimed at helping restart contacts between Israel and the Palestinians in hopes of paving the way for negotiations.

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