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Blair to fly Concorde to the U.S.

Blair, left, and Arafat
Blair, left, had a difficult Mideast tour  

LONDON, England -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to take one of the first resumed Concorde flights when he travels to the U.S. to brief President George W. Bush on his Mideast tour.

Blair spent a gruelling two-day trip this week meeting the leaders of Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

He is due to fly on the supersonic jet for his trip to Washington next Wednesday where he will keep Bush up-to-date with events. A spokesman for Blair said it was "very likely" that the prime minister would take a chartered Concorde flight rather than the first scheduled flight in more than 15 months.

Blair called for "restraint" during his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to allow a "proper initiative" to be mounted to get the peace process back on track.

Timeline: A brief history of the Concorde 
In-Depth: Concorde - A Supersonic Return 

Blair added: "It is important that we do everything that we can to find the way back to a viable peace process."

During the two-day tour of the region Blair met with Saudi King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah in Riyadh and with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. He also held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.

On his way back Thursday he met Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, agreeing that Russia must play a more central role, Berlusconi's spokesman said.

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He added that the two leaders hoped the European Union and NATO could build a new relationship with Russia and draw on its past experience of fighting in Afghanistan.

Both Air France and British Airways Concordes have been grounded since an accident in Paris in July 2000, in which 113 people died.

The crash is believed to have been caused by a strip of metal left on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport, bursting a tyre which ripped into the fuel tanks sparking a fire.

A BA Concorde successfully completed its first full transatlantic flight, from Heathrow to Kennedy airport in New York last week.

Both BA and Air France have completed a number of Concorde test flights over the past year to help check new safety modifications.

They include fitting bullet-proof Kevlar rubber linings to the fuel tank to prevent possible rupturing, tougher tyres, and a strengthening of the wiring in the undercarriage bay.

Business travellers and journalists will take the inaugural flight on November 7 to be followed by the resumption of fare-paying flights on November 9.


• Concorde returns to NY
October 22, 2001
• Air chiefs push for Concorde return
August 16, 2001
• Blair calls for Mideast restraint
November 1, 2001
• Listening and waiting in Syria
October 31, 2001

• British Airways
• Air France
• Concorde

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