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For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza. Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza.

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Tony Blair had hoped to visit Gaza in his capacity as Mideast envoy for the Quartet -- that's the U.S., the U.N., the EU and Russia -- but had to cancel because of a "specific security threat." It's hard to be an envoy if you can't get to where you need to go, but the former British prime minister promised to make it to Gaza eventually and "press for help for the people there."

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According to the Irish prime minister, Tony Blair has agreed to serve the quartet -- the U.S., the U.N., the EU and Russia -- as a special envoy to the Mideast. Earlier reports suggested that Blair bristled at the limited scope of the position, but an aide says the outgoing British prime minister was eager to take the job and continue to work on the world stage.

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The US and Israel are pressuring Tony Blair to become the "quartet's" (that would be the U, the EU, the UN and Russia) Mideast envoy, because he's already done such a bang-up job soothing tensions in the Arab world But Blair might not be interested since President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would want to limit his scope to setting up a functioning Palestinian state.

on

Israeli officials say they will not work with a newly formed Palestinian coalition, calling the power-sharing regime "a leap backward." Despite a tentative pledge from Hamas to "respect" past agreements, Israel feels the new government does not meet the requirements set out by the so-called quartet of Western nations.

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