London - British Prime Minister Tony Blair Monday urged Syria and Iran to play a "more constructive role" in solving the Middle East conflict, which could also help bring peace to Iraq.

In a major foreign policy speech in London late Monday, Blair said a "new partnership" with Iran was possible if Tehran assisted in the Middle East process, stopped its support for terrorism and fulfilled its obligations on nuclear non-proliferation.

"In that case, a new partnership is possible," Blair told the Lord Mayor's Banquet in the City of London.

Aides said Blair's challenge to Iran to play a more constructive role in the Middle East applied equally to Syria.

Blair said a new strategy was needed to push back forces outside Iraq that were trying to cause "mayhem" inside the country.

"In other words, a major part of the answer to Iraq lies not in Iraq itself but outside it, in the whole of the region where the same forces are at work, where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found, where the extremism flourishes, with a propaganda that may be, indeed is, totally false; but is, nonetheless, attractive to much of the Arab street."

However, the strategy should begin with efforts to resolve the tension between Israel and Palestine, rather than bringing Iran and Syria on board, Blair said, insisting that his words did not mark a change in policy toward Syria and Iran.

Blair's speech came a day before he was due to hold video conference discussions with the Iraq Study Group in the US, which is charged with evaluating the country's Iraq policy and led by former US secretary of state James Baker.

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