WAR ON TERROR: PEACE TOUR; Blair's off Again.To Visit Syria, Israel and the Palestinians in Search for Middle East Solution

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Byline: OONAGH BLACKMAN, Deputy Political Editor, in Damascus and DAVID PILDITCH in Jerusalem

TONY Blair arrived in Syria last night on his latest mission to secure peace in the Middle East and drum up support for the anti-terror coalition.

He will call on Syrian President Bashar Assad to commit himself to the war on terrorism.

And he will urge Assad, who has huge influence with Palestinians, to get them and the Israelis back to the negotiating table.

After talks in Damascus today, Mr Blair is believed to be going to Israel to meet Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The Prime Minister believes a settlement in the Middle East holds the key to marginalising Osama bin Laden - and preventing more Arabs joining his fanatical al-Qaeda group.

Officials travelling with Mr Blair stressed he has no "ready made blueprint" to end the Middle East conflict.

But the PM's official spokesman said: "What we have is a framework in which to start from and what is important is that that process be given the time and space to develop and for politics to be given a chance to work and to stop the cycle of violence."

Since September 11, Mr Blair has been criticised for "over-reaching himself" in trying to solve the crises in the Middle East and Asia.

By the end of the week he will have visited 11 countries in a bid to keep the fragile anti-terror alliance together.

Mr Blair spoke to President Assad by phone on September 20. Nine days later, the PM sent his new Arab envoy, Lord Powell to Syria to deliver a private message to its leader. …