US sending top envoy to work with Blair on helping Abbas

The Bush administration is sending a senior US State Department official to run the Mideast office of former British prime minister Tony Blair as part of new efforts to support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, The Associated Press has learned. Robert Danin, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, will take up his post next week as "head of mission" for Blair, the special envoy to the Palestinians for the international diplomatic quartet on the Middle East, US officials told the AP. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a public announcement. But the appointment was announced in an internal memo sent to State Department staff on Tuesday as the Abbas arrived in Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Danin "will lead the Blair mission's effort on the ground to support the Palestinian Authority in improving the livelihood of its people in the West Bank and Gaza," said the memo from David Welch, the top US diplomat for the Middle East.