Blair's Britain: Leaders call Blair on to world stage

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Tony Blair has been asked by the Syrian President to intervene in support of peace in the Middle East, one of a series of requests that Britain's new leader use his diplomatic weight around the world.

President Hafez al-Assad said in a cable to the Prime Minister that British support for the Middle East peace process was vital. "I hope that the government of the United Kingdom under your leadership, and within the European Union, will continue to support the cause of just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace," he said.

The official Syrian newspaper, Tishreen, said it believed Mr Blair would give Europe a greater role in the Middle East. "The region and the world look for a more effective European role. Britain can contribute to the shaping of this role as Blair himself declared," Tishreen said. "Positions of the Conservatives were in fact disappointing. They were biased to Israel."

A second area where foreign governments will look to Britain for action is over the disputed province of Kashmir. India rules two-thirds and Pakistan the rest, and the two countries have fought two of their three wars over it. A Labour national executive committee resolution in 1995 said the party would help negotiate a peace settlement.

Pakistan wants outside help to resolve the dispute and Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister, on Saturday extended a "most cordial invitation" to Mr Blair to pay an early visit. India maintains the issue can be discussed only bilaterally with Pakistan, saying on Friday it expected its relations with Britain to improve, but officials privately expressed fears over Kashmir.

Cyprus has also expressed hopes that Mr Blair will help to break the deadlock over the divided island. "We are confident that the Labour Party's declared positions on Cyprus will be effectively promoted," said President Glafcos Clerides. Britain, Greece and Turkey are guarantor powers of Cyprus's sovereignty under international treaties. Britain's former Tory government appointed Sir David Hannay, its former ambassador to the United Nations, as its special representative on the Cyprus issue last year.

Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, also invited Mr Blair to make an early visit. The Russian leader said the Kremlin sees co-operation and partnership with Britain as a foreign policy priority and an important element in European and world security, according to the Interfax news agency. It is likely that Moscow will look for a more emollient policy in London over Nato enlargement into eastern Europe, which was backed by the Conservatives.

There is also hope in Argentina that Labour's arrival will lead to a shift of strategy over the Falkland Islands. "One always maintains the hope that a change of government ... in that country could be positive in some way for our sovereignty claim," said President Carlos Menem in comments published on Friday. Labour has said there will be no change in policy.