Reuters: Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Saturday he thought talk of the West opening dialogue with Iran and Syria on how to defuse regional tensions and help stem violence in Iraq had been “overstated”. CAIRO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Saturday he thought talk of the West opening dialogue with Iran and Syria on how to defuse regional tensions and help stem violence in Iraq had been “overstated”.
Blair criticised Tehran for backing forces that are seeking to destabilise the government of Lebanon, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and are fomenting violence in Iraq. He did not directly criticise Damascus.
A U.S. bipartisan panel recently recommended opening discussions with Iran and Syria over how to end the bloodshed in Iraq, a move Washington has so far dismissed.
Blair had supported the idea but on the condition the two states stopped backing terrorism and, in the case of Tehran, that it ended its nuclear programme.
“I think that people have overstated the issue to do with dialogue with Iran or with Syria,” he told reporters in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as part of a Middle East tour that will take in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the United Arab Emirates.
He added that Iran and Syria were not the same.
“Iran seems to see its purpose as to derail the prospects for stability, peace and democracy. It’s difficult to see, with the role Iran is playing at the moment, how they can be a constructive player in this,” he added.
“If they want to be constructive and change, then people would be willing to reach out.”
Blair also dismissed suggestions of divisions with Washington on policy towards Iran: “Essentially the judgement is the same … Most people are in the same place.”