RAMALLAH, West Bank,(Reuters) – Hundreds of Palestinians including politicians and intellectuals told British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday they did not want him 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 President Mahmoud Abbas said. Blair is expected to also hold talks in Israel and Lebanon, though there has been no confirmation from his office.
The prime minister came under fire at home during Israel’s 34-day war with Hizbollah for lining up with the United States in refusing to back Lebanon’s demands for an immediate truce.
“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 notice said Palestinian leaders should cancel Blair’s trip. It was signed by members of smaller political parties, university professors, activists from non-governmental organisations and hundreds of ordinary Palestinians.
The signatories did not include politicians from Abbas’s 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 visit could be overshadowed by political woes at home. British media reported on Thursday he would step down early next May after a revolt by disenchanted supporters campaigning for him to end almost 10 years in office.