Blair finds time to drop in on Arnie, Snoop and Nicole

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The Independent US

Tony Blair is working "hell for leather" for peace in the Middle East, his spokesman says. But with little sign of success during his five-day trip to California, attention is beginning to turn to the rest of his schedule - in particular, the extraordinary number of rich, powerful and famous people he has somehow managed to see while in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The highlight of the trip was a speech to Rupert Murdoch's News Corps conference at the Pebble Beach resort, where he topped a bill that included Bono, from the band U2, and Shimon Peres, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Blair is also understood to have met such stars as Nicole Kidman during his stay at the resort, where suites cost upwards of $900 (£480) a night.

Downing Street claim Mr Blair is working the phones round the clock to solve the diplomatic impasse over Lebanon. But that was undermined after he spent part of Monday night at a party thrown by Chelsea football club, in LA on a pre-season tour.

In the Sky Bay nightclub of the Mondrian hotel, Mr Blair chatted to Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry about the "pressure of taking penalties". He also met the rap artist Snoop Dogg.

Downing Street insist Mr Blair has been glad-handing for Britain during his "roundtables" with biotech billionaires and the barons of Silicon Valley.

But Martin Uden, Britain's consul-general, inadvertently let slip the Foreign Office's worries about Mr Blair's programme in remarks reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. "Despite all he is doing to drum up business for Britain there is a risk of having some people say, 'Isn't he just there on holiday,' especially when he gets to Los Angeles and meets Hollywood types."

There has also been the distinct whiff of a job-hunt in the air, especially after yesterday's $80-a-head event in LA, addressed by Mr Blair. The sell-out event surely foreshadows many more tours of the lecture circuit.

Arnold Schwarzenegger said Mr Blair could "have any job he wanted".

Mr Blair is under increasing pressure to postpone his holiday, believed to be in Barbados, until a ceasefire is agreed. His office said his plans were "under review".

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