Blair cancels Gaza trip

Ex-British PM calls off visit after "specific" security threats.

    Blair said he wanted to see first-hand what was happening in Gaza [EPA]

    An Israeli diplomatic source said Blair was informed by Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, "that there was a threat that could materialise as he entered the Gaza Strip".

    But Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas' spokesman, said the group's security forces had taken measures to ensure Blair's safety.

    "The story of security threats was only an Israeli invention to prevent the visit," Abu Zuhri said.

    "Blair should have not accepted these silly allegations."

    Ismail Haniya, the de facto Hamas leader in Gaza, also held the Israeli government responsible for the cancellation of Blair's visit.

    'Keen to go'

    Blair told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an he had been keen to go ahead with the trip despite the warnings, but cancelled it after learning the threats were "more specific and more credible".

    He still planned to visit Gaza at a later time, Blair told Ma'an.

    "I intend to go as soon as I can. It would have been important to go and see for myself first-hand what's happening in Gaza and I will continue to press for help for the people there," Blair said.

    Blair had not planned to meet any Hamas leaders, which was a decision made in line with a US-led boycott of the group over its refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence after it won elections in 2006, Palestinian and Western officials said.

    The Quartet of international mediators - the US, EU, Russia and the UN - appointed Blair to the post of Middle East envoy a year ago to bolster chances for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal this year.

    Blair last visited the Gaza Strip as the UK prime minister in 1998.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.