Blair set for last ME peace push of premiership

British Prime Minister Tony Blair set off Friday for Turkey, beginning a round of diplomacy aimed at reassuring Turks about their hopes joining the European Union and revitalizing peace hopes in the Middle East. Blair has strongly backed Turkey's bid for EU membership, regarding it as important to forge alliances with countries with moderate Muslim populations. The larger issue on Blair's agenda was the Middle East. The prime minister, who plans to step down in 2007, has repeatedly said that ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is key to stabilizing Iraq and achieving a broader Middle East peace. He declared in September that "from now until I leave office, I will dedicate myself ... to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine." "I may not succeed. But I will try because peace in the Middle East is a defeat for terrorism," he said.