Blair Meets with UAE’s Zayed in Geneva, Visits Oman to Rally Support
British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into Oman on Wednesday to inspect the 23,000 British troops engaged in military exercises there, and to hold talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Saeed. Earlier, Blair met in Geneva with UAE President Zayed bib Sultan Al Nahyan, said agencies.
The official Omani news agency (ONA) reported that the meeting with Qaboos would be an "occasion for ... an exchange of views between the two friendly countries on the latest developments on the international scene."
The two-day visit "also represents an important step on the way to consolidating bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation," ONA said.
On Thursday, Blair will make a stopover in Cairo within the context of his mission to rally support for the US-led war against Afghanistan.
Blair stopped in Geneva Tuesday night to meet the Sheikh Zayed.
"The purpose of meeting people is to explain why we are taking the action we are, why we feel so strongly about the terrorist attacks in the US that killed almost 7,000 innocent people and why it's important to keep the coalition of support together for that action," Blair was quoted by AFP as saying in a brief interview with Abu Dhabi television from Geneva.
In Cairo, official sources reported that Blair would meet Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The prime minister, whose country has attacked Afghanistan with sea-based missiles and offered logistical support to the US forces, also telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz Tuesday to assure him that the strikes on Afghanistan were not aimed at Islam or Muslims, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
"What is happening in Afghanistan is aimed at combating terrorism and does not target Islam or Muslims anywhere in the world, and that includes the Muslim Afghan people," Blair was quoted as saying.
Britain has assembled 24 warships - the biggest armada since the 1982 Falklands War - as well as fighter jets, tanks and more than 23,000 troops in Oman for joint exercises with their Omani counterparts.
The maneuvers, codenamed Swift Sword II, were planned three years before the September 11 terror attacks on the United States and their final phase is due from October 18 to 26.
The trip to Oman is the latest leg in Blair's shuttle diplomacy to shore up the anti-terrorism coalition as US-led attacks against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan intensify, according to AFP – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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