Mon, March 02, 2009
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Blair visits Gaza

2009-03-02 06:01:17 GMT2009-03-02 14:01:17 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

INTRO: Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair makes his first trip to Gaza since being appointed two years ago.

MOREINFO: As the envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators he is tasked with pushing for peace in the region and strengthening the Palestinian economy. Officials close to the former British Prime Minister said he will not be holding talks with Hamas, who control Gaza.

SCRIPT:

Tony Blair, Special envoy to the Middle East, met with officials in Gaza.

Blair visited sites destroyed during the Israel's 22 day offensive.

He visited this school.

This was a rare visit, set up to assess the scale of the damage from Israel's 22 day bombardment of the coastal enclave.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) QUARTET'S SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST TONY BLAIR SAYING:

"This money will not have a lasting impact, unless there is a political solution. It is ultimately in the politics that the solution lays. And so, thats why, whether it's here in Gaza or indeed on the West Bank, on the whole of the Palestinian issue we need to get the politics right and that's what we will be trying."

Officials close to Blair said he won't be holding talks with Hamas, who considered his trip a positive move.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAMAS SPOKESPERSON FAWZI BARHOUM SAYING:

"We hope he can send the real image of the destruction, burning and demolition that happened in Gaza Strip due to the Zionist criminal war."

Blair travelled to the Israeli town of Sderot, often targeted by Hamas rockets.

He said peace in the area must be insured.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) QUARTET'S SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST TONY BLAIR SAYING:

"There is a majority of people in Israel and in Gaza and the West Bank who want peace. It's our task somehow to find a way to ensure that there is. So that they can have a normal life, and you can live without fear."

Another of his tasks is to spearhead efforts to strengthen the Palestinian economy.

This was his first trip to Gaza since being appointed Mideast peace envoy two years ago.

Basmah Fahim, Reuters.

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