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Israeli 'Palestine' row defused

Straw is heading for Israel after meetings in Iran
Straw is heading for Israel after meetings in Iran  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is continuing his Mideast diplomatic mission with a visit to Israel after a row over the word "Palestine" was defused.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had pulled out of a planned Tuesday meeting with Straw until a phone call from UK prime minister Tony Blair calmed Israeli anger.

The row broke out after Straw, in the Mideast to build support for the U.S.-led "global coalition against terrorism," was reported to have referred to Palestine -- the prospective Palestinian state not yet recognised by the international community.

According to Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz, Straw issued a statement before visiting Tehran, saying: "I understand that one of the factors contributing to the growth of terror is the anger of many people in the region about the incidents in recent years in Palestine."

An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said the comments could be interpreted as "ascribing blame" to Israel and it infuriated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who canceled his appointment with Straw.

In a phone call he told Blair: "There is no difference between terror and terror, murder is murder. There are no good terrorists and every act of terror is horrendous."

CNN's Robin Oakley discusses British Foreign Minister Jack Straw's trip to Iran and Europe's role in any retaliation
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But following the phone conversation Sharon agreed to see Straw for talks which took place late on Tuesday and were described as "constructive and convivial" by the UK Foreign Office.

In London, Blair said he had not been asked to apologise for Straw adding: "This crisis has been so severe and events so traumatic that all round the world people are re-evaluating how they should come together. A whole series of things, that you would have thought impossible a month ago, are now possible."

Blair also used the news conference to issue a warning to the Taliban in Afghanistan -- which has refused so far to hand over the suspected mastermind of the U.S. attack, Osama bin Laden.

"There should be no doubting the unity of the alliance being built against the Taliban or our determination to bring those responsible to account.

"If the regime in Afghanistan refuses to do what they know they should do then our enemies friend is our enemy."

Straw arrived in Israel at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday, going straight into a meeting at the airport with French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, who is also in the country for talks.

During the evening, Mr Straw was due to meet Sharon and with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Straw had earlier been in Iran -- the highest level UK minister to visit the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution -- on a mission to encourage it to join the U.S.-led "war against terror."

But after talks with his Iranian opposite number, Straw said Tehran was sticking to its insistence that the alliance needed to be U.N. rather than U.S.-led.

Straw also met President Mohammed Khatami -- a reformist-minded leader who has fought a series of battles with his conservative hardline opponents -- before heading to Israel.

Iran, which is also due to entertain an EU delegation, has condemned the hijack attacks against the U.S., but securing its support for the anti-terror drive would represent a significant ally from the Muslim world.

At a Tehran news conference, Straw said he and Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, agreed to disagree over Tehran joining the U.S.-led "war against terror."

Straw said Britain continued to support the building of an international consensus and that London "stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States in any action against Osama bin Laden."

Kharazi agreed with the need to build a consensus, but said the effort should be spearheaded by the United Nations.

He added that any campaign against terrorism must also look at the root causes of terrorism and expressed concern that military action could result in civilian casualties.

Iran condemned the U.S. hijack attacks but also ruled out allowing U.S. planes to use its airspace in any attack on bin Laden.

A European Union team is also due to fly to Iran to press home the case for joining the U.S.-declared "war against terror."

The EU team began a five-day five-nation trip in Pakistan where delegation head Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel praised the "brave stance" taken by Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, in giving his country's backing and cooperation in the campaign.

Michel said: "Terrorism is a global challenge demanding a global answer."


• Britain's Straw to visit Iran
September 21, 2001
• Iran warns over 'hasty' reaction
September 19, 2001
• Blair and Khatami discuss response
September 20, 2001

• UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office

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