Blair Bids to Save the Road Map for Midde East Peace; ISRAELI CARVE-UP OF CONTESTED LAND RISKS INFLAMING PALESTINIAN ANGER

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Byline: JOE MURPHY

TONY BLAIR was today urgently trying to save the Middle East "road map" after George Bush appeared to abandon his former blueprint for peace.

The Prime Minister will use talks in Washington tomorrow to urge the US President to make clear Palestinians will have a full say on their future.

Mr Blair was stepping in after a surprise deal between Mr Bush and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon came out with a dramatic new carve-up of contested land in the West Bank.

The deal - which enraged Arab leaders - gave a serious new headache to Mr Blair, who had used the Middle East peace process to bolster support from Labour MPs for war in Iraq.

Labour backbench leaders immediately sounded the alarm over the new deal.

Senior MP Clive Soley said Mr Bush appeared to have got it "badly wrong" and added: "There are aspects of it which are disturbing and which need to be negotiated properly."

Astonishment at the deal was also voiced by United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, while Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat warned it would trigger violence.

Under the new terms announced at the White House, Israel would permanently annex settlements seized after the 1967 Six-Day War - land which had been previously expected to pass to a new Palestinian state.

Mr Bush dismissed the idea of a "right to return" for Palestinian refugees to former homes in Israel. Praising Mr Sharon's courage, he said a new map was needed because the "realities" in the region had changed. …