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Blair warns over Iran threat to West Asia

Any solution in Iraq must be part of a broader West Asia strategy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told a US panel.

india Updated: Nov 15, 2006 11:45 IST

Any solution in Iraq must be part of a broader West Asia strategy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has told a US panel, while warning that Iran poses a "strategic threat to the region".

Blair also stressed that the Israel-Palestine conflict was the top priority in the region, because extremists were exploiting it to radicalise moderate Muslims, a Downing Street spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

In a videoconference with the so-called Iraq Study Group in Washington, Blair also called for Iran and Syria to be presented with a "strategic choice," she said.

"He told the (panel).... That what he believed was needed was a plan for Iraq and a plan for the region as a whole, that firstly focused on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," the spokeswoman said.

The British leader's comments echoed a keynote speech he made Monday in which he called for a change of strategy and pressed Iran to support Western efforts to quell the relentless bloodshed.

The US panel, led by former US secretary of state James Baker, on Monday heard from US President George W Bush, who defied growing calls for the West to engage with Syria and Iran.

Bush appeared in fighting form in his testimony, insisting that Iran must halt its nuclear program, while Syria must get its hands off Lebanon and stop shielding extremists before any talks can begin.

The United States accuses Syria and Iran of fomenting instability in Iraq and allowing insurgents to cross their borders.