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Iraq solution must be part of broader Middle East strategy

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a US panel on Iraq that any solution must be part of a broader Middle East strategy, while warning that Iran was a "strategic threat to the region."

Blair underlined that the Israel-Palestine conflict was the top priority in the Middle East, but said that both Tehran and Syria must be presented with a "strategic choice," a Downing Street spokeswoman told AFP.

Blair made his comments in a video-conference with the Iraq Study Group in Washington, which is investigating possible changes of strategy in Iraq, and which heard from US President George W. Bush on Monday.

"He told the (panel)... that what he believed was needed was a plan for Iraq and a plan for the region as a whole, that firstly focused on resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," said the spokeswoman.

Blair warned that the Israel-Palestine conflict was being exploited by extremists around the Middle East -- including in Iran, which he described as a strategic threat to the region -- to radicalize moderate Muslims.

"The way to deal with Iran was not to back down on our demands but to take away their ability to exploit Muslim opinion and to confront both it and Syria with a strategic choice," she said.

This choice was that they could either be "part of a solution or face isolation," she added.

The British leader made similar points in a keynote address in London on Monday in which he also pressed Iran to help Western efforts, warning that otherwise the Islamic republic would be further isolated.

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