Tony Blair 'not welcome' in Ramallah

Palestinians declare British PM persona non grata, calls visit "provocation."

tony blair 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
tony blair 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Several Palestinian public institutions, political factions and figures on Monday declared British Prime Minister Tony Blair persona non grata in Ramallah, saying his planned visit to the city was a "provocation against the feelings of the Palestinian people." In a statement distributed in Ramallah, they said that Blair, who is expected to visit the region later this week, was "completely unwelcome in our country because he was coming to wash the hands that are dripping Lebanese blood with Palestinian water." The statement is the first of its kind against Blair and comes one day after Palestinians in various parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip staged demonstrations against the US and Britain to protest against these countries' support for Israel. It also follows a similar protest against US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who visited Ramallah in August for talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to protest against Rice's visit while an alliance of Palestinian factions, including Abbas's Fatah party, called a general strike. "Blair's main task is to appear as a peace-maker to stave off sharp criticism in his country and around the world following his refusal to support a cease-fire initiative in Lebanon," the statement added. "He wanted to give Israel's army generals enough time to complete their destructive mission." According to the authors of the statement, Blair is also "seeking to appease the Arabs and Muslims in light of his biased policies in favor of Israel and his backing for the American adventures. He's trying to create the impression that he is making peaceful efforts to find a solution to the Palestinian cause." The statement pledged to prevent Blair from achieving his goals. "We won't allow him to do that; we must not give him the opportunity to appear as a peace-maker because he's a man of violence and a war-maker," it said. "He's not coming here for peace, but to save his extremist policy and his support for the American policy, which has harmed British interests. On top of all this, his policy regarding the Palestinian issue was always biased toward Israel and has contributed to the starvation of the Palestinians." The forces behind the statement urged the PA leadership to boycott Blair and to inform him that he is a persona non grata in the Palestinian territories. "By receiving this man in Ramallah, the Palestinian leadership will add fuel to the fire that is raging in our souls," they argued. "The Palestinian leadership must be very careful not to allow every war-adventurer to use the Palestinian issue to clean his hands." Among those who signed the statement are the National Democratic Union [Fida], the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, legislators Khaledah Jarar, Mustafa Barghouti, Bassam Salhi, five workers' unions and hundreds of Ramallah residents.