Former British PM Blair urges Mideast peace drive

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, offered praise Wednesday for US President-elect Barack Obama's selections to lead his national security team, and he expressed hope that Obama's administration will press hard and immediately for progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Blair, the international envoy to the Middle East, told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations that the time was right for a fresh push for progress. Much will be riding on what Obama does, Blair said. "What the president-elect has put together is a very, very strong team; not just with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state," but also retired Gen. James L. Jones as Obama's national security adviser, Blair said. Noting that he has worked with Jones in the retired Marine's role as US special envoy for Middle East security, Blair said Jones is "someone who understands the situation very well."