by Reuters | haaretz | 07/09/2006
RAMALLAH - Hundreds of Palestinians including politicians and intellectuals on Thursday called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair not to visit Palestinian areas, accusing him of excessive support for Israel.
Blair will meet Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Sunday during a visit to the region, an aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said. Blair is expected to also hold talks in Israel and Lebanon, though there has been no confirmation from his office.
"He is coming here in order to wash his hands, that are dripping with Lebanese blood, with Palestinian water," the group of Palestinians wrote in an ad placed in the al-Ayyam newspaper.
"We, the signatories... notables, intellectuals and political figures declare that Tony Blair is persona non-grata in our country."
The British prime minister came under fire at home during Israel's 34-day war with Hezbollah for lining up with the United States in refusing to back Lebanon's demands for an immediate truce.
The notice said Palestinian leaders should cancel Blair's trip. It was signed by members of smaller parties, university professors, activists from non-governmental organizations and hundreds of ordinary Palestinians.
The signatories did not include any politicians from Abbas' Fatah group or the governing militant Hamas movement.
Blair is expected to make a push for renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians during his visit. Peace negotiations collapsed in 2000 amid violence.
Asked to comment on the notice, a spokesman for the British consulate in Jerusalem said:
"The Prime Minister has announced that he will visit the Middle East soon and that his visit will deal with the fundamental issues surrounding both Lebanon and the Palestinians. There is anger and mistrust on all sides."
Blair's Downing Street office has said the prime minister planned to visit the Middle East shortly, but has declined to give further details.
His visit could be overshadowed by political woes at home, with Blair under increasing pressure to set out a timetable for his departure as prime minister after nine years in power.