Blair says he is 'ready to help' in Mideast crisis
( AFP ) - Tony Blair said Tuesday he is ready to help bring about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, amid claims he is to become an envoy to the region after stepping down as British prime minister.
Monday's edition of the Financial Times said the four major players in the Middle East peace process will agree on Blair as their new envoy when they meet in Jerusalem Tuesday.
Blair did not confirm or deny the report when asked about it at a news conference at his Downing Street residnce with visiting California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential," Blair told reporters.
"And I will do whatever I can to help such a resolution come about."
Blair, who steps down Wednesday after 10 years in power, said he was told by his friend the former US president Bill Clinton that leaving office gave him the opportunity to focus on one issue.
Whether that was the Middle East or another issue such as tackling global warming, he added: "We will see."
Representatives of the so-called Mideast Quartet -- the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the United States -- are expected to meet to discuss the region's latest crisis.
US President George W. Bush has signalled his support for Blair, who has been his closest ally in the so-called "war on terror".
But the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana is said to be opposed to the move, because it would detract from his own efforts in the Middle East, according to the FT.
Schwarzenegger, who lavished warm praise on Blair for his leadership on tackling global warming, for his part said he was "very happy" there was discussion about Blair becoming the quartet's representative.
"I think that he is without any doubt a great, great diplomat and is very very knowledgeable about this. And it will make me feel good if someone like that will be there and negotiate," he added.
"But for a selfish reason I hope that he becomes an envoy for the environment... Maybe he can take on both of the challenges?"