Blair pleads ignorance of client's ties to Palestinian firm

Envoy's spokeswoman: Blair lobbied Israel on behalf of cell phone company without knowing JP Morgan held a financial stake in outcome.

311_Tony Blair book cover photo (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_Tony Blair book cover photo
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Quarter Envoy Tony Blair's spokeswoman has denied any implication that Blair helped rescue a Palestinian cell phone company on the verge of bankruptcy because of its financial ties with one of his consulting clients, as was first reported by The Daily Mail in its Sunday issue. The report claimed that the former British prime minister mounted an intense political lobbying campaign to save the cellphone company, Wataniya, in which the banking giant JP Morgan indirectly holds a significant financial stake through its investments in Wataniya's Qatari parent company Qtel.
"Tony Blair raised Wataniya at the request of the Palestinian Authority in his role as Quartet Representative along with many others in the International Community," Blair spokesperson Ruti Winterstein the Jerusalem Post. "He has no knowledge of any connection between QTel and JP Morgan and has never discussed the issue with JP Morgan, nor have they ever raised it with him. Any suggestion that he raised it for any reason other than the one stated to help the Palestinians or that in some way he has benefited from Wataniya is untrue and defamatory."
RELATED:Shoe, eggs hurled at Tony Blair in DublinGov't won't increase electricity to GazaBook Excerpts: Mixed emotionsWataniya's business almost collapsed because Israel refused to let it use the frequencies it needed to operate, according to the Daily Mail report.
Using his influence as the Quartet's Middle East peace envoy, Blair was able to put pressure on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an attempt to reverse the Israeli decision, The Daily Mail claimed.
The paper's special investigation alleged that Blair spoke of the need to establish and invest in the company in order to boost the Palestinian economy. However, the American investment bank JP Morgan, that employs Blair as a consultant, has a financial stake in the Palestinian company and stood to lose millions of dollars if the investments did not pay off.
The family of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also stood to gain from Blair's influence, as a company owned by son Tarek Abbas had already signed advertisement contracts with Wataniya.
Blair has faced demands to publish full details of the many business interests that have allowed him to amass a personal fortune estimated to be worth at least 15 million pounds, the paper reported.
Ronen Shnidman contributed to this report.