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LEBANON ON FIRE



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LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the world's major aid agencies said on Friday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had got his policy on the crisis in Lebanon "horribly wrong" by failing to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

Blair's stance has put his country at odds with the rest of the international community, seven agencies, including Christian Aid, Save the Children and Oxfam, said in a joint statement.

"The situation on the ground is grim and getting worse," said Janet Symes, Christian Aid's regional manager for the Middle East.

"The prime minister has in the past provided admirable leadership on humanitarian crises. We can't understand why he has got this one so horribly wrong."

Blair's government, like that of the United States, has refused to publicly call for a ceasefire, putting it at odds with the United Nations and most of its European allies.

Explaining the government's stance, a spokesman for Blair said on Friday said the prime minister had "made it clear right from the beginning that he wants the conflict to end".

"What, however, people appear to want him to do is to call for a unilateral ceasefire.


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"That may make people feel good for a few hours but a) it's unlikely to have any impact and b) a quick fix will not deliver a sustainable peace in the Middle East."

The seven aid agencies -- Christian Aid, Save the Children, Oxfam, Islamic Relief, CAFOD, World Vision and CARE International UK -- condemned the bombings and rocket attacks in Lebanon and northern Israel.

"Civilians are the main victims of this and a ceasefire would be in all their interests," said Geoffrey Dennis, head of CARE International UK.


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