TONY BLAIR was steeling himself last night for a bruising clash with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, who has warned that war in Iraq could have a devastating effect on the entire Middle East.
At Downing Street talks today, Mr Blair will reject President Assad's calls for the military build-up to be abandoned and dismiss his prediction that the action could fuel terrorism across the Islamic world. He will call instead for President Assad to clamp down on militant organisations suspected of being harboured by Syria.
However, British diplomats still hope that Syria could become a channel for stepping up pressure on Iraq.
On the eve of today's talks, it emerged that six Royal Navy vessels, including the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, are due to visit the Gulf early next year. Some 2,600 military personnel will be on board. The Ministry of Defence said the mission was part of a routine exercise, which would end in the Asia-Pacific region. But it could easily be diverted to take part in any action against …