Blair still hopes for Israel-Palestinian peace deal by year-end target

International Mideast envoy Tony Blair said Wednesday he still hopes Israel and the Palestinians can achieve peace this year, clarifying a remark attributed to him in a newspaper interview. The Palestinian newspaper Al Quds quoted Blair as saying he was pessimistic that Israel and the Palestinians will complete a final peace agreement by year's end, and that questions surrounding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political fate have complicated the peace effort. The two sides set a goal of an agreement by the end of 2008 when they restarted peace talks last November at a US-sponsored peace summit. A statement released by Blair's office quoted him as saying, "I have always said it is possible to get a deal this year, and that remains my view. Of course the situation is difficult, but I am convinced the parties are still working hard for a deal and are determined to achieve agreement by the end of the year."