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Abbas receives Blair's backing
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Monday Dec 18th, 2006 6:35 AM
Tony Blair today pledged his support for the embattled Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, using a joint news conference in the West Bank to praise his "vision" in peace efforts.
"I will not rest for a single moment until we have delivered what we both want to achieve," Mr Blair said in Ramallah.

Mr Abbas, meanwhile, reiterated his plan to hold new general elections as soon as possible to end political deadlock between his Fatah organisation and the more radical Hamas group of the Palestinian prime minister, Ismael Haniyeh.

As the pair spoke, forces loyal to Fatah and those from Hamas continued to exchange gunfire, a day after the worst factional fighting among the Palestinians for 10 years.

Shots were exchanged today outside Mr Abbas's residence in Gaza City, as well as near the Hamas-controlled foreign ministry building. However, the battles were more sporadic thanks to a truce agreed last night, in the wake of intense battles that killed three people.

Mr Blair, who arrived in Jerusalem from Baghdad yesterday, is part-way through an intensive Middle East tour, seen as a final personal push for peace in the region by the prime minister before his expected departure from Downing Street next year.

Standing alongside Mr Abbas in the Muqata compound following talks, Mr Blair urged international backing for the Palestinian president.