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Blair: Resume Mideast talks soon

Blair defended his close ties with Bush and their tough stance on Iraq

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Prime Minister Tony Blair recalls U.S.-Allied efforts to liberate Europe as debate over Iraq looms. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (October 1)
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BLACKPOOL, England (CNN) -- Final-status Middle East talks must resume by the end of the year with an eye towards creating a Palestinian state based on 1967 boundaries, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

Speaking at the annual Labour Party conference in Blackpool on Tuesday, Blair also defended his tough stance on Iraq and his close ties with U.S. President George W. Bush.

"What is happening in the Middle East now is ugly and it's wrong," Blair said. "U.N. resolutions should apply here as much as to Iraq. But they don't just apply to Israelis, they apply to all parties.

"There is only one answer: By this year's end we must have revived final status negotiations and they must have explicitly as their aims an Israeli state free from terror, recognised by the Arab world and a viable Palestinian state based on the boundaries of 1967."

Blair defended his co-operation with Bush in planning for a possible military attack on Iraq, saying: "I know the worry over Iraq. People accept Saddam is bad. But they fear it's being done for the wrong motives.

"They fear us acting alone -- so, the United Nations route. Let us lay down the ultimatum, let Saddam comply with the will of the U.N."

Following applause, Blair told his audience: "So far, most of you are with me. But here is the hard part: If he doesn't comply, if at this moment we lose our collective will to deal with it, we destroy the authority not of the United States or of Britain, but of the United Nations itself.

"Sometimes, and particularly in dealing with a dictator, the only chance of peace is a readiness for war."

Blair also dismissed complaints that he has maintained too close an alliance with the current U.S. government, and criticised what he described as widespread anti-Americanism in Britain and elsewhere.

"For all the resentment of America, remember -- the basic values of America are our values too -- Britain and Europe -- and they are good values," Blair said.

"Remember when and where this alliance was forged -- here in Europe in World War II, when Europe and America ... joined forced to liberate Europe from the Nazi evil.

"My vision of Britain is not the 51st state of anywhere, but I believe in this alliance and I will fight long and hard to preserve it, because it is in the interest of our country," he said.

Blair is Bush's strongest ally on Iraq, but he has faced widespread opposition at home, with many Labour members of Parliament expressing dissent.

But Labour delegates voted on Monday to back the use of U.N.-sponsored military action if weapons inspections and negotiations fail. The vote followed a lengthy emotional debate that capped months of disagreement within the party.

On Tuesday, Blair was able to make light of the issues facing him and his party.

Referring to Europe's victory over the United States in last weekend's Ryder Cup tournament, he said: "What about the Ryder Cup, eh? Britain in Europe at its best. Me and George Bush on opposite sides."

"I thought you might like that one," he added with a grin as his audience cheered and applauded.

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